Ottawa entrepreneur and community leader Jennifer Stewart took the pandemic to build one of the country’s most dynamic teams of communicators.
Whether managing a crisis, advising some of Canada’s largest corporations or running point on some of the biggest events in the city, #TeamSyntax is only getting started.
“Our team is not like other teams in the city or even the country. We have areas of extreme specialization that bring intense subject matter expertise and experience for our clients,” said Stewart.
Stewart founded the firm at the age of 25, without a clear business plan or way forward. Through hard work, vision and solid business intuition, Syntax is now widely known for its commitment to quality and for pushing the envelope.
“A huge value of our team is our out-of-the-box service offerings,” said Stewart. And she isn’t wrong.
This year, the Syntax team launched a number of practices and areas of specialization, including a sports practice led by two-time Olympian Lisa Weagle.
“The sports specialization is a growing need,” said Weagle. “Organizations need to understand the importance of their image and reputation more than ever before. That’s where we come in.”
Weagle is currently the point lead on experiential marketing for the Coaching Association of Canada’s Mental Health and Sport Resource Hub, among other sport-related clients looking to bring their message to the market.
Sarah Kastner was announced as the lead of Syntax’s Indigenous Partnerships and Social Purpose practice, bringing years of experience in community-engaged research and social impact projects, including a doctorate from Queen’s University.
Kastner, previously a Director of Social Development for the Native Women’s Association of Canada, is leading communications and stakeholder engagement for the Kebaowek First Nation Cultural Centre and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and working with the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada.
“The Indigenous Partnerships and Social Purpose practice at Syntax is about helping organizations to advance their objectives through evidence-driven and community-engaged strategies,” said Kastner. “It’s been an honour to work in partnership with high-impact organizations and help build their capacity to make a difference.”
Events with Impact
Syntax’s events team is led by veterans in the nation’s capital. Hailing from the Ottawa Senators, Dana Telfer and Liane Mamo worked side by side for years at the hockey club before rejoining forces at Syntax to lead events for clients both in Ottawa and across the country.
When COVID-19 hit, the dynamic duo quickly leaned into new technologies and opportunities and were the successful partners of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation as they launched their first virtual Cancer Champions Breakfast, which raised a record amount. This was one of many newly digital events that Telfer and Mamo executed flawlessly.
“Events, at their core, are all very similar. They need to be expertly managed, and details matter. Every detail matters. When you factor in online events, you have different details to manage but the outcome can be the same: a solid event that’s visually stunning,” said Telfer.
When 4-H Canada approached Syntax to transition their annual 4-H Leadership Awards from in-person to online, Syntax leaned into the compelling stories of the young people and volunteers being honoured, producing videos shot across the country.
As the pandemic wore on, we knew if we were to compete for people’s screen time, we needed to make it worth their while. These young people are truly impressive, and we wanted to show their stories, rather than just tell them. High-quality, stunning video paired with rich storytelling is a huge component of successful events today because you need your guests to feel something – to be immersed in the experience,” said Mamo.
New Team Members
Syntax bolstered its media and advocacy presence this year, bringing in Janet Silver, former editor of iPolitics, and Megan Shaw, former CTV Ottawa reporter and journalist.
“More and more you need to bring in good people who have solid reputations to best advise clients. Bolstering our media practice has been good for our clients, and having people like Janet and Megan who have lived and breathed in newsrooms is invaluable,” said Stewart.
At Syntax’s leadership core are veteran journalist Jennifer Madigan and Director of Finance and Business Operations Devon Larock. With a vision to scale and grow, Madigan and Larock bring discipline, systems and processes to client relations.
“We always say we want to be consistently consistent,” said Madigan. “We want our clients to know they are always going to get strong products, ideas and strategy from our team, and that takes leadership and processes that we have put in place.”
Larock manages the business operations of Syntax along with Stewart, ensuring the day-to-day of the business remains seamless while long-term planning is always in sight.
“It’s striking that right balance between urgency today and planning for tomorrow,” said Larock. “We’re fully future-proofed and here for the long term.”
Vision for the Future
Stewart recognizes she’s only as good as her team, and by the looks of things, Syntax is just beginning to leave its long and impactful mark on the corporate and not-for-profit communities of Canada.
Photography by Sean Sisk