Bright Side of (Downtown) Business: Barry McLoughlin and Laura Peck celebrate 40 years in communications

Barry McLoughlin (left) and Laura Peck co-founded McLoughlin Media in 1984. Photo Zenith Wolfe
Barry McLoughlin (left) and Laura Peck co-founded McLoughlin Media in 1984. Photo Zenith Wolfe
Editor's Note

The Bright Side of (Downtown) Business, presented by Star Motors, highlights business success stories in Ottawa.

From communications advice to leadership training, the founders of Ottawa-based McLoughlin Media have a lot to reflect on after 40 years in the business.

The media consulting firm was co-founded in 1984 by Barry McLoughlin and Laura Peck. Their first office overlooked the bus station on Catherine Street and since then they have moved between Metcalfe, Elgin, Queen and Nepean streets.

Since 2014, they’ve added leadership training and coaching through their adjacent company, Transformational Leadership Consultancy. Together, they’ve conducted more than 5,000 seminars about communication skills and crisis response across Canada and the U.S. 

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Their clients include Canadian and American politicians and bureaucrats, company CEOs, First Nations groups, international coast guards and NASA employees. 

According to McLoughlin, every day offers a new learning experience.

“It’s one of the few businesses where you’re going to get validated right away. You know by coffee break how your seminar’s going,” he says. “And after 40 years of doing this, it’s one of the areas where I can honestly say, ‘I think I’m better at this than when I first started.’ Age is not only not a barrier, but it actually is a bonus.”

McLoughlin says he teaches people to be authentic in leadership roles. He disagrees with answering the question you wish you had been asked, rather than the one you were asked, even though he says it’s gotten more common in company culture over the years.

“It’s implying that you’re being evasive,” he says. “You get to do that once with journalists, but they may not want you back.”

In one-on-one coaching sessions, McLoughlin asks clients to write a list of their defining traits on a whiteboard, then conducts a mock interview to point out how their actions contradict their traits.

He says this helps them uncover their natural skills. “People have strengths they don’t realize are strengths. I don’t dive down into psychology, but if people aren’t self-aware, they’re not able to learn.”

McLoughlin got his start in the early 1970s writing and producing two seasons of a satire news show, Shhh! It’s The News, for the Global Television Network. He worked for the federal government as a communications adviser for four years before tackling Parliament Hill, where he provided communications advice to politicians. 

That’s where he met Peck, a former CBC broadcaster working as a political assistant.

The two started planning a business together and Peck says they shared many of the same ideas. She had always prioritized building a career and, as a child, it was her dream to help people make friends, overcome bullying and make a living through healthy communication.

They married two years after founding the company, even booking clients throughout their honeymoon. Now, they avoid bringing up their relationship during seminars because they say it “changes the dynamic of the room.”

“It’s not (supposed to be) about us,” Peck says. “It’s about them.”

Aideen Nabigon, who has worked with Indigenous Affairs and as an executive director for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, says McLoughlin and Peck immerse themselves in their clients’ issues. 

When Nabigon joined the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as interim executive director in 2017, the team was in “desperate need” of media attention. She says McLoughlin and Peck spent days walking the inquiry’s commissioners around town to media outlets for interviews.

“They were prepared to come with us to (a hearing in the Yukon). They were extremely generous with their time,” Nabigon says. 

McLoughlin has also written a series of manuals to provide tips on responding to the media and handling crises. He and Peck have updated the books over the years to reflect the shifting media landscape and they’re planning a 2025 revamp to include information about handling confrontation, meeting skills and social media. Nabigon says she frequently refers to the manuals when she’s doing communications work.

In their off-time, McLoughlin and Peck still look for ways to help people connect. They recently took a screenplay writing course at the University of California, where they helped fellow students put together screenplay pitches. After one class, McLoughlin encouraged a student to share a personal story with guest speaker and American playwright Aaron Sorkin.

While stationed in Afghanistan as a legal counsel for the U.S. military, the student and her team watched Sorkin’s A Few Good Men every Friday night. The movie played a significant role in helping her and her teammates connect, the student told McLoughlin. 

“I said to (Sorkin), ‘This young lady has a story and I think you’ll want to hear it,’ and his eyes started tearing up,” McLoughlin recalls. “It doesn’t faze me very much to go up to Aaron Sorkin, but she was so grateful because she said, ‘I would never have done that.’”

This column is presented by Star Motors, Ottawa’s original Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes Van dealer. Since 1957, Star Motors has provided its customers with the Mercedes-Benz “The Best or Nothing” standard in vehicle selection, service, genuine parts and certified collision repair. For your convenience, you may shop, research, chat and compare vehicles online at, visit the 400 West Hunt Club location or call (613) 737-7827 for the very best in personal service.

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