With a population of 1.2 million residents, The Regional Municipality of York (York Region) is one of Canada’s largest municipalities and the second largest business centre in Ontario. York Region, an upper-tier Municipality north of Toronto, has a strategic goal to increase the amount of land that is covered by trees and forests.

To this end, York Region wanted to measure residents’ attitudes about the benefits of trees and forests as part of building a data-driven communications strategy that would lead to meaningful changes in public behaviour, including increased tree planting and maintenance.

What We Did

Probe Research and our partners at Blueprint Strategic Consulting and Guidepost Strategies led the Region through an extensive strategic planning, research and communications exercise. Blueprint worked with a project advisory team to develop a statement of purpose for the project, facilitating discussions that helped launch it in the right direction. Probe conducted several complementary research activities that provided deep and rich data to inform the project, including:

  • A jurisdictional scan that included conducting in-depth interviews and online research to identify leading marketing and communications practices used by other jurisdictions and partners that focus on the benefits of trees.
  • A survey of a representative sample of N=1,001 York Region residents, including at least 100 respondents from each of York Region’s nine local municipalities. This survey was used to develop segments or “personas” that would help inform York Region’s communications and marketing approaches.
  • Four focus groups with residents, including a dedicated session with representatives of the Region’s fast-growing population of new Canadians.


The ultimate outcome of this project was a comprehensive communications strategy that is grounded in data and endorsed by key stakeholders within the regional government and its partner organizations. The research components directly fed into the communications strategy, as the survey segmentation and ideas from other jurisdictions were used to inform the communications plan recommendations, while focus group findings helped identify key message frames that are most likely to resonate strongly in future York Region communications about trees and forests.