Mia Pearson, one of Canada’s most successful and accomplished PR professionals and entrepreneurs, is retiring at the end of the year.
Pearson, who began her career in public relations in the early ’90s, started, built and sold two different PR agencies. In both cases, her successes demonstrated her ability to see larger trends in business and media over the horizon and to build her agency to meet those trends.
In 1996, at the age of 29, she started High Road Communications as a boutique agency specializing in technology in the early days of the first tech boom. By 2000, it had grown to 26 employees with $3.5 million in billings and clients across Canada and the U.S., and was acquired by Fleishman-Hillard Canada.
Pearson was named president of Fleishman-Hillard in 2008, but by 2011, was again ready to start something new. This time, her foresight revealed the importance of social media and content as the future of PR.
Pearson and long-time business partner Justin Creally started North Strategic, followed a year later by Notch Video.
The rapid growth and success of her agency once again caught the attention of the holding companies, and in late 2016, North Strategic was sold to Publicis’s MSLGroup and Pearson was named CEO for MSL in Canada.
“I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and 25 of that as an entrepreneur starting high-growth companies. It was always my vision to retire early when I still can enjoy so much more in life,” Pearson told The Message. “The team is so strong, and many have been here since the inception, making this such a seamless transition.”
Creally will take over as MSLGroup CEO, with newly appointed managing directors Jessica Savage and Sarah Stewart-Browne for North, and Nadia Beale for MSL.
“Working alongside Mia for the past 20-plus years has been the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s like being on a team with Gretzky—she makes everyone around her better,” said Creally. “She has accomplished so much, she really has no business being as humble as she is. She has always preferred to shower her teams with accolades versus taking credit herself, even though she is the smartest person in the room.”
Asked about her proudest moments, Pearson proves Creally right by instead singling out others. “What I am most proud of is our team,” she says. “Our retention rate that is off the charts; interns that are agency execs or leading marketing at some of the country’s most iconic brands; watching the teammates I have been so privileged to work with and mentor, and the incredible accomplishments they have all achieved.”
While still young to be retiring, Pearson was unequivocal that this is not a euphemism or a prelude to something else. “My plan is to take a hard break and really do all the things I have not had the chance to do while being in role,” she says. “There is a whole other side of life I am ready to explore.”