Like many crown corporations and quasi-government agencies, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority welcomes a new cohort of young workers every summer to foster awareness and interest in what they do, across the communities they serve. This junior community relations team represents the port authority to the public at community offices and at various community events and festivals.

Marketing outreach through dynamic community engagement can build awareness and understanding of a brand. It can also be unpredictable. It’s not uncommon to have a challenging conversation at least once per shift, especially with opinionated members of the public. The port authority retained Spur to develop and deliver a training session that equipped their community relations team with the skills they need to be confident brand ambassadors.

a young woman in black overalls walks through a concourse

key opportunities

This training presented a few important parameters.


This new team participates in extensive training every spring. Our workshop needed to validate and amplify the content this group would have just absorbed in the weeks prior, introducing them to the port authority and its mandate. We therefore worked closely with their manager to ensure alignment and continuity of content.

theory + practice

Theory of best practices alone wouldn’t leave participants with the skills and confidence they needed. We needed to understand the specific situations in which the students will find themselves, including specific hot-button topics and likely community locations to consider in our scenarios.

balanced tone

By and large this is a fun job that helps young people gain important communication and marketing skills. We needed to be frank about the tough stuff, but keep it focused on the positive overall – imparting the skills that matter when an interaction could be negative.

combat overhwelm

This job begins with weeks of orientation. By the time our session is underway, participants have sat through many hours of training. To prevent overwhelm and keep folks engaged, we needed to design the session to be as interactive and engaging as possible, including time to get up, move around and keep the energy flowing.

our approach

Working closely with the Community Outreach Team, we developed and delivered a training session that left their summer students – and other participating staff – equipped with the skills they need to be confident brand ambassadors.

Here’s how we did it.


getting the words right

Our training employed all the same language and key messages the team learned during their two-week on-boarding. We reinforced and applied this material so it really stuck with the students.

making it customized

We are familiar with the environments in which these students are working—and we supplemented this with specific details of their summer schedule. We designed the workshop with references to these outdoor events and festivals, as well as particular questions or concerns they might field.

time to practice (again and again!)

The training included ample time to practice these new skills through dynamic role-plays. We paused to practice every new tool and technique as we presented it, ensuring participants had time to test it out and debrief immediately.

metrics that matter

In just one session, our team made a significant impact. Here are a few of the highlights.


key messages absorbed


improvement in confidence levels (%)


total minutes of role-plays


de-escalation phrases

the results

In under three hours, we dramatically strengthened this group’s capacity for effective and dynamic community engagement.

Participants said they hoped to leave empowered to be able to handle tough questions out in the field, and by the end of our time together, they certainly did.

They reported feeling ready for their new roles and the busy marketing outreach season.

hilary farson and natalie hill facilitate a training together

This was a very valuable session and was well received by everyone. I appreciate the mix of information sharing and role-playing. Practice makes perfect they say! The team definitely feels more confident now that they have learned these new community engagement tips and tricks. Natalie and Hilary were the perfect team to deliver this presentation and share their experience in a similar role with the students. I look forward to inviting them back next year!