get enlightened
May 28 – 30, 2017

Workshop Presenters

Heather Pullen, MCM, APR, FCPRS  Terry Flynn, PhD, APR, FCPRS & Jessica Langer, PhD

Champions of truth: the role of public relations in an era of fake news

Heather Pullen, MCM, APR, FCPRS Terry Flynn, PhD, APR, FCPRS & Jessica Langer, PhD

As witnessed during the 2016 US election and the first months of the Trump Presidency, “fake news” – misinformation deliberately presented as legitimate reporting – has emerged as a significant, influential phenomenon in today’s media landscape. It has ruined reputations, misled the public and, in the Comet Pizza case, even triggered violence.

This workshop will discuss:

  • the evolution and impact of fake news;

  • how fake news uses today’s social media technology to mimic historical propaganda models;

  • how public relations professionals can counter fake news by staying true to the profession’s long-standing commitment to openness and transparency.

We will offer both thought-provoking insight and practical strategies.

  • Attendees will learn about specific social media strategies they can use to prevent or mitigate the impact of a fake news crisis.

  • They will also learn how to integrate their planning for a fake news crisis into existing communications plans and crisis communications plans.


Heather Pullen, MCM, APR, FCPRS

Heather Pullen is a seasoned public relations professional whose career has spanned journalism, corporate communications, and academia. Currently she is working as an educator and communications consultant based in Hamilton.

Most recently, Heather was manager of the Public Relations Department at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for 13 years. In that capacity, she played a key role in developing and executing strategic communication programs related to activities and services at one of the largest hospital systems in Ontario.

Heather joined HHS in 2002 after working for 10 years as a public relations consultant specializing in healthcare communications. Prior to that she was a member of the public relations department at The Toronto Hospital (Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals) and, before that, a producer, editor and reporter at CBC Radio.

Heather has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Carleton University, and a master’s degree in communications management from McMaster University. She teaches crisis communications and healthcare communications to grad students at McMaster University.

Terry Flynn, PhD, APR, FCPRS

Dr. Terry Flynn, APR, FCPRS is one of Canada’s leading public relations/communications management researchers and an important bridge between the academy and the profession. Following a 20-year communications consulting career, Terry joined the faculty of McMaster University after completing his Ph.D. studies at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Terry’s scholarly work has been published in the Journal of Public Relations Review, Public Relations Journal, Canadian Journal of Communication, Corporate Communications, the Research Journal of the IPR and the Journal of Professional Communications. He is a member of a number of professional and academic organizations including: the CPRS– and was its elected President in 2009-2010; the Institute for Public Relations (Board of Trustees); and the Arthur W. Page Society (Board of Trustees). In 2015, Dr. Flynn was given the prestigious Philip A. Novikoff Award by the CPRS, for superior contributions to the advancement of the profession in Canada and throughout the world.

Jessica Langer, PhD

Jessica Langer, PhD, is a Professor of Public Relations in the Centennial College Honours Bachelor of Public Relations Management program, with specializations in social and digital media. Jessica has also taught in the Creative Industries program at Ryerson University, in the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program, and in the BBA and MBA programs at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Jessica has acted as a PR and marketing consultant for major clients including TD, SickKids, Blake Cassels and Graydon LLP, Precise ParkLink, Green P, Sol Cuisine, Taste of Nature and many others, and has held leadership roles on creative projects including, which found viral success in February, and the Bell Digital Media Fund-supported and Digi Award-winning digital execution for HGTV’s Home to Win.

Jessica’s current academic projects include ongoing inquiry into authenticity and online discourse in luxury brand communities, the role of anthropomorphized characters in Japanese public relations practice, and on unexpected market segments for children’s media properties.

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