It is with great sadness that we announce that Suzanne Raitt, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer at Newspapers Canada, died on Tuesday, May 12, at the age of 49 after a six-month battle with cancer.
Suzanne worked for the newspaper industry over the past 14 years, twice at Newspapers Canada, and once at the Toronto Star.
Upon her return to Newspapers Canada, Suzanne’s immediate challenge was that she would no longer just be promoting the daily newspaper industry, but also would represent
community newspapers. She set out to win the hearts and minds of community newspaper publishers. Her view was that the best way to understand their business was to visit members in their communities and understand the business and their markets. Over the next few years, she travelled from coast to coast to coast, visiting communities large and small to spread the word. The result is that she became the voice of all of Canada’s newspapers, large and small, community and daily.
She was not only in demand on the local circuit, but also internationally. She became the voice of Canada’s newspaper industry internationally and was continually approached to speak at international events and to write or comment on international trends. She presented not only in Canada, but in Italy, Malta, Holland, Thailand and the UK.
She also changed the way that Canadians saw newspapers. Her key tool was her annual presentation on the industry, which became a much anticipated event. It was a 45-minute presentation that she delivered over a hundred times a year to advertisers, agencies and member newspapers. It was full of the latest information on what was new and innovative in the industry, as well as what was tried and true.
Suzanne felt very strongly that while her role was to promote the industry on the big stage, she needed to provide member newspapers with materials so that they could tell their story, and her contribution in this area is considerable. She set out to produce case studies where an advertiser had effectively used newspapers. Getting the advertiser or the agency to share their success was often not an easy task, but somehow Suzanne would convince them to do it.
She also felt that one of the keys to marketing success was that you had to provide new information to the community on at least a weekly basis, and her output in this area was outstanding. She published fact sheets on a weekly basis and then created a whole social media presence to distribute the information. On a daily basis Suzanne posted positive snippets about newspapers to her impressive list of almost 2000 LinkedIn followers. She was sure that the “slow drip” method would result in a more positive image for newspapers. One of her followers reinforced this by telling her how much they looked forward to her “daily affirmations”.
However, where Suzanne really shone was in research. She used her business background to develop cutting-edge research on the industry. Each year, she would decide on key projects and produce world leading research that helped the industry. This year was no exception. She had heard from newspapers that the automotive category was leaving newspapers and moving to social media. She wanted to stop it. She first met with the automotive industry to find out exactly what questions they needed answered and then developed the research to answer those questions. The auto dealers wanted two things: They wanted people through their dealer door, and they wanted people to test drive. So Suzanne developed a research project where 2500 Canadians who recently bought cars were asked how they looked for information. What was clear was that Canadians weren’t looking to social media when they wanted to buy cars. The research has been lauded not only by the newspaper industry, but by the advertising world as well.
Prior to joining the Association, Suzanne held increasingly senior marketing roles at such companies as A.C. Nielsen Marketing Research, Robin Hood Multifoods, Hershey Canada, and at creative advertising agencies Anderson Advertising, Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, and MacLaren McCann.
Suzanne earned three degrees from the University of Western Ontario: two undergraduate degrees (Mathematics & Statistics and Honours Business Administration) and an MBA from the Ivey School of Business.
Suzanne was greatly admired by friends and colleagues for her tireless work ethic, boundless energy, grace and compassion. She brought a very human face to her meetings and was remembered by many for her magnetic personality. Suzanne had an amazing ability to balance her work and home life. She could accomplish more in a day than anyone and made it seem effortless. She never missed a deadline, never was late with anything, and never missed dinner with her kids.
Day to day, Suzanne made a point to connect with everyone in the office. She wasn’t just a colleague; she was a friend. She was always eager to hear about any weekend plans and share in the fun and excitement of our lives outside the office. She also served as a mentor and confidant to many, advising on everything from relationships to career paths.
Suzanne is survived by her husband Mike, her sons Matthew and Christopher, her father Michael Warren, in-laws Griff and Judy Raitt, her niece and nephews and her sister and brothers-in-law.
Visitation and service will be held at St. Olave’s Anglican Church, 360 Windermere Ave., Toronto, on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Visitation 1:00-2:00 PM. Service at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of your choice that will find a cure for cancer. Online condolences may be sent through www.turnerporter.ca.
Those attending the Newspapers Canada conference can sign a book of condolence to be given to Suzanne’s family. Newspapers Canada will be making a donation in Suzanne’s memory to the Cancer Research Fund at the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
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