AGM Workshops

Cher Jones leads a Social Media workshop at the 2011 Annual General Meeting on June 18, 2011

Cher Jones and Dr. Vibe led workshops at the CABJ 2011 Annual General Meeting, which took place on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at Toronto Metro Hall.

Go to Photo Gallery to see more photos from the Social Media Savvy workshop by Cher Jones.

Sharon McMillan, Public Relations Manager, Toronto

How long have you been a member of the CABJ?
Since 1998 (though my membership hasn't been continuous).

How did you become a PR professional?
I graduated from university with an English degree, took a job as a community newspaper reporter. I quickly decided that I needed to pay the rent AND eat and that was becoming quite a feat on a small newspaper journalist's salary.  I did some research and learned that the public relations field was not only interesting and uniquely suited to those with a media background, but the salary was significantly better!

What is the most challenging part about your job?
The very things that make a career in public relations interesting and exciting also make it challenging.  You've got to become a subject expert pretty quickly whether you're working with outside clients or filling the role of the staff PR person for an organization.

While you might not necessarily be the spokesperson in many cases, you will be expected to create messaging for your spokespersons (likely a senior executive or the president) and you'll usually have a very short timeline, especially if you're responding to a media query.

Another challenging aspect of PR work is crisis management.  Remember the BP oil spill? Well trust me that while the head of BP was stressing out at how the oil spill was affecting his personal life, BP's PR people likely had NO personal life during that period of time. When an organization is in crisis your PR people have to know everything possible about the issue or problem and they have to anticipate what will happen at all times.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There's nothing quite like seeing a news broadcast or an article in a major newspaper that accurately reflects a position you've worked hard to articulate directly or with your spokesperson. Another aspect I find rewarding is the variety.  Some days I'm working on media relations; other days I'm working on a promotional campaign or a newsletter or the website.

How are PR professionals and journalists interrelated?
For me there's one commonality between journalists and PR professionals that I think is worth stressing and that is their shared need to communicate effectively to target audiences.  Journalists want to appeal to the needs of their readers and PR pros want to reach the client or employer's customers/supporters/prospects.

How has the CABJ benefited you?
Many CABJ members are top journalists at Canada's leading media outlets. That was reason enough for me to join back in 1998. There have been instances when I've been able to get a story I was pitching successfully into the media because of the fine people I was able to meet at CABJ events and meetings. Relationships truly make a big difference in your ability to succeed in public relations and my CABJ membership has been very helpful in that regard.

Looking ahead I'm still interested in meeting journalists but I'm also looking forward to meeting more PR professionals in our association.  We can learn so much from each other and also form lucrative partnerships that can help us in our businesses and careers.

If you could switch places with someone for a day who would it be?
Oprah's PR manager  - that's the kind of pace and variety that I would just love.

-- Interviewed by Monique Johnson

Adrian Harewood, CBC radio and TV host, Ottawa

Adrian Harewood and I first met at the NFB in Ottawa in 1993. He was a student at McGill where he later graduated and became the Station Manager at CKUT (McGill’s community radio station). Seventeen years later he is married and  anchors the 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. news at CBC Television in Ottawa.

Harewood says that he doesn't have a typical day. “With this new TV gig my workday now starts at 3:00 p.m. So normally during the day I try to go for a run or do some form of exercise, read various newspapers and websites, maybe watch a film, read a book, listen to radio programs on CBC, BBC, NPR, Democracy Now, Radio Pacifica, Radio Canada. I also listen to Christopher Lydon’s Open Source, and This American Life on Public Radio International. While I am doing housework I watch CBC TV, Radio-Canada, BBC, CNN.

Knowing how to make good use of his time, Harewood has advice for young journalists who would like to be where he is today. “Follow your passion,” Harewood says. “Be curious. Read widely. Be a sponge. Travel as much you can. Get out of your comfort zone, whatever that zone is. Learn some languages. Expose yourself to as many stories as you can be they radio documentaries or films or TV shows or ballads or magazine articles. Read poetry. Practice reading out loud. Check out some art. Ground yourself as much as you can in history and politics and philosophy and science. Don’t get complacent. Never be satisfied with what you think you know. Get to know your community. Get involved in community media (I am particularly biased towards community radio). Write something every day. Try to become as versatile as you can as a media practitioner.”

All this advice has helped Harewood to be who he is today. Five years from now he sees himself writing a lot more for newspapers and magazines and pursuing some book projects. He would also like to teach at some post-secondary institution. He would like to produce documentaries for radio and TV. -- By Donna Kakonge