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5 minutes with communications expert Jennifer Stewart on building brand awareness

Photo by Michelle Valberg

Jennifer Stewart’s entrepreneurial drive and self-proclaimed “overconfidence” led to her opening her own PR and government relations firm at just 25 years old. Through vision, leadership, and a whole lot of hustle, she’s built Syntax Strategic into an internationally recognized communications and business strategy firm, working with clients in the public and private sectors on their communications strategies — and associated business impact. Regarded as one of Canada’s top communication leaders, Jennifer is CTV’s Communications Commentator, is often called upon as a media expert, and has received numerous awards and accolades. We spoke to Jennifer about building brand awareness — from what companies most often get wrong, to the best advice for getting it right.  


When you’re working on building brand awareness for a client, where do you start?

You need to start with who they are trying to communicate with, and why. Oftentimes, people aren’t telling the right narrative that will really reach in and grab their audience. Attention spans are short and are even shorter today than ever before.  

I like to begin with a process that is almost a forensic audit of what’s being done today, and whether it’s working, and how you can turn that on its head to grab more attention, have more impact and at the end of the day, build awareness and reputation for your brand.


What’s the biggest mistake you see companies making when it comes to their communications?

The biggest mistake is that companies assume what their audiences want to hear and develop an outreach campaign that isn’t targeted and is focused around the wrong messaging. Being nimble is important, but you also need to be highly thoughtful and strategic with who you’re engaging, and what is it about your brand or product that relates to them.

Just like with a relationship, building awareness is about filling a gap in someone’s life, and reaching them in a way that will help them, whether that’s as a professional, parent or individual looking for personal growth. 

“Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at promoting their own brand because they’re busy hustling running their businesses.”


What’s the one thing every entrepreneur could be doing to get their brand known?

Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at promoting their own brand because they’re busy hustling running their businesses. I would say take the time to promote yourself, treat yourself as a client and at the end of the day, always do this in a way that’s authentic to you.