Where do you work? What is your role, including responsibilities and projects?
I work at Western University as the Director of Media and Community Relations. I am responsible for communications related promoting and defending the University’s presence locally, nationally and internationally. I oversee an amazing team of professionals who handle internal communications, media relations, community relations, and issues management strategies.
How long have you been an IABC member?
Since 1999 (#old)
In your opinion, what are the benefits of being an IABC member? What resources offered by IABC have you taken advantage of?
Any organization that allows people in the same discipline to meet and share experiences is a valuable entity. I have always been impressed with the generosity of veteran communicators within IABC who freely share their insights with those who are newer to the business. I certainly benefited from this approach and now try, wherever possible, to give back when I can. I think this culture of sharing and support is part of the reason that IABC remains both agile and attractive to existing and potential members.
Being accredited through IABC can pay dividends with fellow communicators. The resources that IABC offers on their website can be quite useful. But above all, being able to network locally and beyond through this organization has delivered me the greatest value.
What area(s) of communications are you passionate about?
Because of the nature of my work in larger organizations, I have been exposed to the need for professional communication, perhaps more than others, in the area of emergency preparedness and crisis management. This area has challenged me to be more precise in the way that related communication protocols and messages need to be crafted in order to garner understanding by intended audiences.
More generally, over the course of my career, I have always been fascinated by the possibilities surrounding new technologies and innovative channels; such as the ever-changing face of Social Media. However, I have also prided myself on being able to evaluate and determine the intrinsic value of new opportunities, without completely denying the value of existing forms of communication. Adopting a new approach – or channel – is not necessarily synonymous with having to abandon other successful tools and methods that you currently use. Don’t always chase the shiny object simply for its glimmer.
Tell us about an important project or achievement from your career.
Being noted as highly competent in delivering results under tight deadlines and in a meaningful manner might not seem like a big deal but it is actually a great kudo to achieve. At Western, we have worked hard to develop systems that allow us to host important partner events often with little or no notice. I think particularly of government announcements that take place at the University. This draws on our abilities as event planners to work with a wide scope of professionals from a variety of specialties on campus to deliver events that are well managed, properly presented and most importantly noticed by media and other important audiences. The reputation that Western has established in this regard travels along way; certainly, to Queen’s Park in Toronto and to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Quiet competence has led to more government events on our campus in the past three years than any other university in the province and notably two appearances by Prime Minister Trudeau, over the course of a year, that the entire London community was able to access. Never discount the value of event planning within your wider communications tool kit.
Are you involved in volunteer work or other roles in the community?
I am not currently involved in volunteering locally, however everyone who has the capacity to do so, should volunteer. And doing so in your local community makes the most sense on many levels. Selfishly, volunteering helps you gain valuable experience and develops your world view; generously, helping others should be a part of every communicator’s consideration no matter what the project maybe. I am currently serving a 3-year volunteer appointment with The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) on their International Commission on Communication and Marketing. I also make time to give back to my profession by teaching Crisis Communications at Western Continuing Studies.
Do you have any advice for students, future communicators or those starting out in this field?
Relish opportunity. I think that having a passion for communication and demonstrating that passion to those who may offer you an opportunity is very important. I would rather support someone who is enthusiastic and driven with skills to develop, than necessarily someone who is naturally talented but has no real desire to chase opportunities and make the most of each project that comes their way. In time, opportunities follow those who want them the most.
What do you like the best about your profession?
The Variety. And solving real world challenges. While best practice helps to define a profession, the ability to translate experience and common sense into tangible actions and success, when the path is not at all clear, can be very satisfying. Don’t be shy about applying creative solutions – because others around you are counting on communicators to help solve some of the trickiest challenges facing your organization.
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