The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) Hamilton was founded in the mid-1960’s, when Bill Cockman, then editor of Westinghouse News, called together other colleagues, most of them also from local industry. The education sector was well represented by Charles “Mac” McNair of Mohawk College, who along with Mr. Cockman, was an Honorary Life Member of CPRS Hamilton.
The group met socially for lunch in local restaurants. Gradually, these luncheons evolved into educational exercises as various organizations hosted the get-together and conducted tours of their premises. Host organizations that welcomed guests included the Hamilton Automobile Club, the Canadian Red Cross, McMaster University, the Hamilton Board of Education and Mohawk College.
Bill Cockman recalled that the group sometimes referred to itself as “the Flying Squad”. “This is because we were always flying from one location to another.” He also said the meetings produced some good brainstorming sessions that were educational and served to promote the value of public relations in the community.
The 1970s and 1980s
Mr. Cockman earned his Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Canadian Public Relations Society in 1973 as one of many Hamilton CPRS members who commuted to Toronto for CPRS meetings.
A growing desire for a formal association bore fruit in 1974 when Dofasco public relations director Jean Cormier came forward with seed money. The Hamilton Public Relations Association (HPRA) was formed and he was elected its first president, followed by other PR leaders, Peter Soderquest, Jessica Davenport and Juliette Allan.
By 1988, the practice of public relations had broadened widely in the region and members were expressing a desire for wider professional development opportunities. At the same time, the Canadian Public Relations Society viewed Hamilton as a city with a solid, respected reputation for public relations expertise with much to share with the rest of the country. Under the leadership of then president Bob Strachan, past president Mario Bernardi and director (and 1989-90 President) Tim Tempest, formal affiliation with CPRS was approved at the June 1988 annual general meeting.
The 1990s - Present
In 1989, director (and 1991-92 president) Suzanne Cornforth, APR, proposed an awards program recognizing excellence in public relations. By April 1990, Ms. Cornforth had become co-chair, along with director (and 1992-93 president) Bill Gair, of the first Pinnacle Awards, which were held on February 19, 1991. Working with then-president Victor Disyak, Ms. Cornforth and Mr. Gair coordinated the talent and hard work of many members in the launch of a permanent salute to public relations in the Hamilton-Wentworth, Halton and Niagara regions.
In recent years, CPRS Hamilton has continued to expand its membership and work towards offering members the region’s best opportunities for professional development and recognition. The board of directors continues its pursuit of excellence in public relations with an ongoing commitment to CPRS members and to the advancement of the public relations profession at large.