PR pros offer Levy advice in the wake of Sam Sign debacle

Critics are thrashing Ryerson since it balked on hanging the iconic Sam the Record Man sign on Yonge Street.

Instead, the school announced a new plan Aug. 29 to place smaller replica signs along the Yonge St. sidewalk in front of the store’s old location.

The response from Torontonians has been clear: they want the real thing.

Ryerson and its president, Sheldon Levy, have been accused of everything from not respecting the city’s history to exaggerating the cost and environmental impact of reinstating the sign.

In light of the backlash, the Ryersonian asked three public relations experts how the school can repair its image:

Shane Fallowfield
NATIONAL Public Relation

Shane Fallowfield

Shane Fallowfield


“When the public feels like it has had input in a decision, they are far less likely to object wholeheartedly to whatever is decided,” Fallowfield says. “Ryerson should lay out a number of options, including the pros and cons of each, and hold public meetings to allow the public to discuss what should be done. Ultimately, you won’t be able to please everyone with the final decision, but at least the public won’t feel as if the decision was forced upon them by the university or by City Council.”


Lindsay Kirsh
The PR Studio

Lindsay Kirsh.

Lindsay Kirsh.

“The key is to demonstrate and reinforce a strong understanding of the importance of the Sam the Record Man sign, and the historical significance it has on the city of Toronto,” Kirsh says. “A communications program is critical, and to restore Ryerson’s image, the sign should be showcased, perhaps at Dundas Square on the anniversary of Sam the Record Man’s grand opening (Labour Day 2014) to commemorate the store. A small tribute to Sam Sniderman should be given by Sheldon Levy, which would include the impact Sniderman had on the city of Toronto. This would be a public event, and other relevant keynote speakers like Bobby Sniderman should be invited to contribute.”


Dario Del Degan
Ryerson’s School of Professional Communication

Dario Del Degan, PhD.

Dario Del Degan, PhD.

“Perhaps as an initiative to further illustrate his transparency on this situation, President Levy could be part of an organized town hall meeting where all the various stakeholders can present their positions, followed by a productive discussion to arrive at a satisfactory decision for all involved. In the end, keeping the lines of communication open, in my estimation, will eventually produce the best results.”


This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on September 18, 2013.

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