It's not easy – and perhaps even impossible – to stay in the communications business without evolving with the times. But that is exactly what Outcrop Communications has excelled at.
Not simply specializing in one aspect of the communication business, Outcrop focuses on helping clients find creative solutions to their communication problems through designing and building websites, digital advertising, shooting video and running social media campaigns among their long list of duties.
“We do a lot of things,” Jen Hayward, Outcrop CEO said. “We're well known for websites, bringing Drupal (a content management system for websites) to the North. We built the Government of Nunavut web system. We build a lot of the websites you see in the North.”
They've also built Spectacular NWT, Destination Nunavut, City of Iqaluit websites and formerly the GNWT website before they moved in-house.
“One of the things we're most proud of is that it is built in the North,” said Hayward. “There is this illusion that innovation and technology can't happen in the North, but that's something we can demonstrate.”
Keeping a staff with a wide range of skills is how Outcrop keeps their edge in the field.
The company currently has 27 employees through three offices with marketing and PR strategists, copywriters, web developers, social media strategists, graphic designers and illustrators, a videographer and event manager. They have also recently added tourism strategists.
“We do video, web, SEO (search engine optimization), digital advertising, social media strategies and a lot of the things people go south for,” said Hayward.
Taking a holistic and comprehensive approach to communication strategies is Outcrop's niche, said Chis Ferris, Outcrop's chief operating officer. Hayward agrees that the company's niche is “finding creative solutions that matter” and essentially not having a niche at all.
“The North is vast but this isn't Toronto or Vancouver,” said Ferris. “There really isn't a big enough market to get too specialized in one area.”
But taking the holistic approach to crafting communication solutions has not slowed Outcrop down from staying on the cutting edge.
Having a history of being communication leaders in the North, Hayward and staff are constantly looking towards the horizon for what's next in their field.
“There is a lot of research, watching trends and award-winning campaigns while working with other firms in the south who are more specialized to build our skills,” said Hayward
“We always try to be one step ahead. We were pioneers bringing Drupal to the North and eventually that became the norm. We want to make sure we empower people in the North, (but) then we're on to the next thing.”
Right now Hayward said they're trying to stay smart in social media.
“It's such a huge and important field and it involves a lot more than just posting to Facebook,” said Hayward
Pioneering change with communications strategies in the North is something Hayward and Ferris attribute to the firm's founders Marion Lavigne and Ronne Heming who left to run Up Here magazine, once Outcrop's sister company.
They sold ownership of the company to Hayward, who had been managing Outcrop Nunavut since 2012, in September 2017.
“We have to give credit to Marie and Ronnie, they were always the pioneers,” said Ferris. “The digital team we have today are here because they were moving in that direction well before anyone else was.”
The founders were also responsible for the company's expansion in the early 2000s to Iqaluit and Whitehorse, making Outcrop the territories only communication firm in all three territories.
“Because we are in the North across all three territories, we become the go-to place," said Ferris. "We're a communications company that knows here and lives here.
“So for a company looking to make their foray into the North, they can come leverage our knowledge and our relationships.”
Doing business in the North is almost entirely based on developing good relationships and an understanding of the people who live here, according to the partners.
“A lot of the challenges people have in the North are solved by having the right conversations and knowing who to have them with,” said Hayward. “I think that makes the difference; knowing the relationships people have and knowing how to get them sitting down and having a conversation.”
Having these relationships and knowing the North also helps when dealing with southern clients who might not fully grasp how different life is in the North.
“With the folks that come from outside the North, they may have a strategy or product that worked well and think we'll just roll this out in the North, but you have to explain the subtleties and nuances of the North,” said Ferris.
“Something that works on Bay Street doesn't always work on the Bay.”
Hayward and Ferris say they often joke that more business gets done in the bread aisle of the grocery store than the boardroom, which is part of appeal of working in the business
“As you get to know people and develop these relationships, you get the opportunity to tell their stories and that's a real privilege,” said Hayward.