Emdash is a progressive communications agency that advocates for change and helps the voiceless be heard. They call themselves a “progressive communications agency that helps others get their message across” but I believe it’s so much more than that.
Caitlin Kealey, CEO, and Ryan Kennery, Vice President are the changemakers of Emdash. “We’ve always worked with people who are trying to do good in the world and it’s always been a core value of the business,” says Caitlin.
How exactly does Emdash help organizations in getting their message across? They help them craft communication strategies and brand identities that help influence and educate the public, policymakers, and other organizations. This might include identifying key messages and developing a strong visual identity, then coming up with different tactics on how to use these effectively.
Brand strategy and digital campaigns have been big and growing parts of their business. Caitlin says, “it’s about digging deep and consulting communities about the kinds of impact they want to make, the kind of words they want to use to describe themselves and coming up with the compelling words and visuals to do this.”
Emdash also assists organizations via media training. They prepare organizations for their big media moments. They help their clients both strategically as well as with messaging and interview practice to help them have a stronger public relations impact.
Over the past 15 years, they’ve worked on numerous projects helping create a better life for people across Canada, including
- The Council of Canadians –The Council was seeking to update their visual identity to better align with their emerging ‘story of self’ and the organization renewal taking place. Their work began with an in-depth research process. This included a collaborative workshop and a survey of key stakeholders. Emdash also conducted an environmental scan of peers in the space to identify a unique visual direction.
- Illunnata – Collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous union members and allies was key to this campaign. Emdash led a series of workshops to explore the campaign name, theme, and call-to-action. This input was also crucial to developing the campaign strategy.
- Pauktuutit – Emdash began by consulting with the client and partners to chart a plan of action. It was clear the campaign needed a strengths-based and culturally-informed approach, along with precise and careful language. This formed the basis of their creative direction.
- Global Skills Opportunity – Emdash was involved from day one, beginning with the program naming process. The name needed to appeal to many audiences, while also speaking to the benefits of the program. They selected Global Skills Opportunity after a consultation process with partners and students.
“There are many companies who would just take the paycheck from a big polluter and not question it,” says Ryan. “As a certified B Corp, we hold ourselves to a higher standard in terms of how we treat people and this planet.”
“All members of our society need to work harder, and we need to do more. If everyone works together, bit by bit things will start to change,” Caitlin tells me.
For example, Emdash worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) for the final two years of its mandate. Caitlin says that before coming on with the TRC, she and much of the country didn’t know much about residential schools and their impact on Indigenous peoples. In 2022, if you asked the average Canadian, they have at least heard about the TRC. “That’s not an easy feat and that’s a lot of hard, sustained work over a long period of time to raise awareness.”
Laura Neidhart, Senior Strategist at Emdash, tells me that they supported the TRC visibility by hosting events, connecting with regional, national and international media, and ensuring the release of the TRC report received widespread coverage. Emdash has continued this work with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation helping them with Truth and Reconciliation Week, a week of educational programming and activities around reconciliation that reached a million students and educators in 2021 and 2022.
There are 94 calls to action that call for meaningful steps towards reconciliation on the part of all governments in Canada, institutions like the Catholic Church, businesses and individual Canadians. Emdash encourages all people in Canada to read the TRC report, understand the legacy of colonialism and the truth of Canada’s history — and how it continues to impact First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples today, and look to the Calls to Action to guide how they can participate in reconciliation.
“Capturing those voices and doing justice for those voices is incredibly rewarding,” says Caitlin, as she tells me about the work they did with the TRC. “That relationship is deep and we enjoy supporting them. It’s one that is really important.”
There are so many ways you can get involved. Reach out to your local communities as there are numerous ways you could give back. From volunteering your time to donations, neighbourhood cleanups, blood drives, food drives, donating clothes, and the list goes on. You can even help someone by shovelling their driveway; small acts of kindness can brighten their day. Remember that those small things can have a huge impact. A little does go a long way!
Caitlin tells me there is also a specific call to action that all businesses should be working toward:
Call to Action 92 in the TRC report calls upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
- Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
- Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.