Toronto tells outside world city is free of SARS threat

TORONTO: Feeling the effects of SARS on its community, the city of Toronto has several communications initiatives underway to remind residents of all it has to offer, and to assure visitors that the virus is well contained.

TORONTO: Feeling the effects of SARS on its community, the city of Toronto has several communications initiatives underway to remind residents of all it has to offer, and to assure visitors that the virus is well contained.

Mayor Mel Lastman and his task force recently selected Fleishman-Hillard to handle PR for an internal recovery campaign entitled "Toronto: You Belong Here." The effort is designed to encourage Toronto residents to get out and start spending time in the city again.

Fleishman used Victoria Day, celebrated last weekend, as a platform for convincing residents to get reacquainted with the city's businesses and culture. Publicity was sought from local media outlets for the usual events held at the annual weekend-long celebration. Enhanced outreach was done to spread the word about the new fireworks and live-music events, which were specially added this year to help residents overcome hesitations about attending.

Other recent drives have included a CN Tower promotion where admission was reduced to $5 a day for a full week in hopes of spurring community activity.

A parallel drive by Toronto's $3 billion film and TV industry, hit hard by fears of SARS, is targeting Hollywood production executives. Toronto, which often substitutes for US locales in Hollywood movies like Chicago, has seen big-budget shoots flee to other SARS-free cities.

Industry representatives have been targeting Hollywood decision-makers from the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) to try and quell the "nervousness that still exists," said Michel Frappier, CEO of the corporation. The OMDC sent an e-mail to 100 production executives in LA, with attachments of reassuring news stories about SARS from The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, the city's two largest newspapers.

That was followed by a conference call between Hollywood execs and Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's medical officer of health. Frappier and other OMDC executives also had a physician in tow during a recent promotional visit to LA.

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