Pearson among Canada’s ‘most powerful women’

Peggy Revell

With a passion for PR, Fort Frances native Mia Pearson has been recognized as one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women” for 2010.
“I was proud.” Pearson said about being a recipient of the annual award presented by the Women’s Executive Network, which highlights 100 of the country’s top female leaders in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors.
“It was great that I was honoured to be a part of the group of women who won because so many of them have accomplished so much,” she added.
Pearson, the daughter of Ross and Mary Jane Pearson of Fort Frances, currently resides in Toronto with her own family, where she oversees operations for the public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard Canada, and its sister companies, High Road Communications and iStudio.
Pearson was nominated by both a client and her own company for the “Corporate Executives” category of the awards, which were presented at a day-long awards summit and gala Nov. 29 in Toronto.
“I really love what I do so it just makes it very easy to sort of continue to move up in the organization because you’re working in an industry that you’re very passionate about,” Pearson reasoned.
“I don’t think when I left Fort Frances that I thought I would be running two companies and living in Toronto, but it all just came about because I think I’ve worked really hard,” she remarked.
“I had a clear vision on what I really wanted to do.
“I love being an entrepreneur and running companies, and I think anybody can do it—it’s just really important to try new experiences, live in new cities, and pursue the career that you’re passionate about,” she stressed.
Pearson left Fort Frances after high school, then graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. with a degree in political science. From there, she went into public relations, working for two large companies in Toronto.
At the age of 29, Pearson established her own company, High Road Communications, with a business partner.
“It grew like crazy,” Pearson said about her company, which she sold to Fleishman-Hillard in 2000.
“High Road has about 130 people. We have offices across Canada and in San Francisco,” she added.
Now Pearson runs the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard, as regional president for both Fleishman-Hillard and High Road.
“So that’s the other thing—you can be really young,” she encouraged. “I hadn’t been working very long, I’d only been working for four years, and decided there was an opportunity to create a different kind of firm.
“You can be young and just have a dream and have an idea of what might be possible.
“I started the company and it just took off,” she noted. “It grew very, very quickly and I’m fortunate for that.”
Pearson’s company works with a number of clients, including Pepsi, Universal Studios, Microsoft, LG, Canon, and more, in what’s called “strategic communications,” doing all of their promotions, she explained.
“Whenever someone has something that they need to get out, that they need to promote, need people to know about it, we’re behind them working very closely to do that with them to do that.”
For example, the company was organizing the events, public relations, media coverage, and social media for the newly-released “Kinect” for Xbox 360.
“We also do all their corporate communications, so if any client is having an issue or crisis, we handle that for them,” she added, noting they also work to do executive profiling.
“What I love is that I work in an agency, so I don’t work for one company, I work for many companies,” said Pearson of her career.
“Every day is different. I never know what to expect,” she stressed.
“And because we also do a lot of crisis communications, these thing hit and it’s exciting when you’re working on those things because every hour things are changing, you’re adapting your communication strategy, so you just never know what to expect.”
Pearson also has seen the whole industry “completely transform” itself over the years.
“When I started out, we were very much doing traditional media, working with a lot of journalists to get coverage on the [front] of the Globe and Mail,” she recalled.
“And today, through social media, I’d say about 40 percent of our revenue now is all online communication.”
This aspect of the job includes such things as establishing a presence on social networks like Facebook, working with bloggers, citizen journalists, and looking at how they can make items go “viral” online.
Outside of work, Pearson is an “outdoor sports enthusiast,” enjoying hiking, snowboarding, boating, and heading to her cottage two hours outside of Toronto.
The family, including her seven-year-old daughter, Shelby, and 11 year-old-son, Jonathan, make frequent visits to Fort Frances, including a trip home every year for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Pearson also sits on the board of the Canadian Advanced Technology Association (CATA), and is the global co-chair of the FH Global Tech Practice.
She is a member of both the Canadian Public Relations Society and International Association of Business communicators (IABC).
As well, Pearson is part of the Rotman School of Management’s “Judy Project,” which aims to see more women advance into senior leadership and CEO positions—and often presents on advancing women in business.
Part of this includes doing a lot of speaking on “personal branding for women,” Pearson explained, and how executive women need “to get out there and be profiled in the media.”
“A lot of the national business papers in Toronto—I talk to a lot of the editors—and they just tend to have a lot of men on the covers,” she noted.
“And I think more women need to be confident and be out there talking about what they’ve done because we just need to see more women out there,” she stressed.
The Nov. 29 summit and gala was one of those opportunities since it included award recipients and others holding panels where young women could come out and learn from the “top 100.”
Pearson sat on a panel with the theme, “Today’s Leader.”
“Just sitting on that panel with a number of other women who are leading organizations, and presidents and CEOs of their companies, and learning about how much they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done, it was just a huge honour to be a part of such an esteemed group of women,” Pearson enthused.
“And it’s good to see because I think we need more women who are taking on leadership positions and demonstrating that we can do it, and are becoming a role model for young women out there.
“I have a daughter who is seven, and I love the fact that she can see that women can do both—that you can have a family and you can also achieve a lot of things in your business world and take on jobs that usually a lot of men do,” she remarked.