Naila Abdullayeva, 2016 Communications Committee member
In a world of perpetual connectivity and instant communication, staying ahead of trends and on top of current events are essential skills for today’s communicator. We spoke with Keith Marnoch, Director of Media and Community Relations at Western University and he provided some insight into his fast-paced world of Public Affairs.
A Public Affairs practitioner is considered to be the media expert in most institutions, with responsibilities ranging from media outreach, to issues management and crisis management. Every day presents something new, and a practitioner will find themselves in situations where they are expected to perform under pressure.
“These situations can be the most rewarding, as they put the practitioner’s abilities to the test,” he says.“The biggest challenge I think practitioners face is the range of responsibilities they are expected to balance in day-to-day tasks. I spend a lot of time trying to see into the future.I have to determine when a story will get the best play, hope people react to it, and try to keep stakeholders up to date in a timely fashion.”
Marnoch believes it is important to remain connected and available. When working with the media, this means extending beyond the digital realm and building relationships to meet your objectives. “I have objectives and the media has objectives. Reporters and editors who respect our respective roles, are the people I work with best,” he says.
Marnoch emphasizes the importance of developing a mutually beneficial relationship with the media and knowing the kind of stories they are looking for. “Readers and viewers continue to expect stories to be told with pictures,” says Marnoch.
Public Affairs is an exciting and rewarding career path for the energetic practitioner seeking a dynamic and challenging role.
Here are Keith’s top five tips for a career in Public Affairs:
- Be open to talking and meeting with people who can inform you.
- Take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
- Dedicate yourself to continual learning in the industry.
- You get what you give.
- Stay humble.
The biggest piece of advice Marnoch has for new practitioners:
“Skills can be learned and refined, but it takes true dedication to excel in the role. I would rather work with someone wanting desperately to achieve something with burgeoning skills, rather than a highly skilled person who thinks they are just doing a job.”
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