PR and Brand Manager
How did you break into your industry and how did you advance to where you are today?
When I graduated from university, I had no clue what my next step was going to be. I graduated with an English and French major, so I took a job as a bilingual Customer Service Representative until I figured it out. I knew I needed a more practical education, so I started looking at postgraduate programs. Centennial College’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program had everything I loved: PR, Event Planning, Social Media, Pop Culture. It was a no brainer! I started the program that following September and learned more in a year than I did during my four years at University.
Through Centennial, I landed a 12-week internship at a boutique PR agency that started my four years of “agency-life.” I worked for three different agencies, and got to work with some great clients and experience a lot! But after four years I was more than ready to have a more balanced life. I started at Rakuten.ca as a PR and Brand Specialist a little over a year ago (it used to be called Ebates.ca) and have loved my job ever since!
Did you find your education provided a helpful background when you started your career?
My postgraduate education helped me tremendously! The great thing about Centennial College is that all of our teachers were in the PR/Comms field and excelling at their jobs. So we were learning from an accomplished group of experts. I truly don’t think I would have the skills I have today without the learnings I took from Centennial.
What was your first job after graduation and how did you land it?
After my 12 week internship, I was hired as a PR Assistant at the same agency. It was truly a great way to start my career. Since I started my PR career at a boutique agency (at the time it was just myself and the two owners) I was able to do way more as an intern and assistant than what my peers were doing. I will forever be grateful for that internship and the trust my bosses had in me so early on in my career.
What advice do you have for a new graduate who is having difficulty finding stable employment?
Make connections, book coffee meetings with someone who’s in the field you’re interested in and pick their brain. When I was starting out, I found that so many people were willing to meet for 30 minutes and tell me about their experience. Not only will their story inspire you, but you will build connections with someone in the industry and you never know where that may lead. One thing I have noticed about the PR/Comms industry is that almost everyone is willing to at least sit with you and share their experience and help in whatever way they can.
What skills do you think a person needs to survive in the communications industry?
Multitasking and the ability to work under pressure! Especially on the agency side since every day is completely different. You’ve got to learn to prioritize what’s most important especially when juggling multiple client accounts.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
This is my first job outside of an agency so what I love most is being part of the bigger picture. When you’re on the agency side, you’re creating your plans based on the client’s goals for the year. Now I have the opportunity to create the goals and implement strategies that will lead us to success.
We also have an amazing corporate culture here that makes it very exciting to come to work every day — including catered lunch on Wednesday, catered breakfast on Monday and a meditation room! We also participate in Lean In Circles once a month that is structured to help women learn new skills and discuss barriers they experience every day.
Is work-life balance possible and how do you achieve it?
It’s possible if you’re in the right company! It’s definitely harder on the agency side because there’s the perception that you always have to be ‘on.’ I don’t think I truly achieved a healthy work-life balance until I moved to the corporate side. It’s what I love the most about working at Rakuten.ca — there’s a very clear understanding that a larger life exists outside of the office and everyone here is so understanding about your personal life obligations.
You need to make sure you work for the right employer who values your time inside and outside of the office. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions in your interview process about their stance on work-life balance. You can also learn a lot about a company’s corporate culture by looking at their social pages. Do they host events for their employees? How do they celebrate milestones?
What’s a misconception you had about the communications industry?
I think people assume that we have a very glam lifestyle working in PR – I mean I was definitely guilty of that assumption based solely on what was portrayed on TV. There definitely is some glam with the great events and the travel you sometimes get to do. But what they don’t show is the amount of hands-on work that goes with those events and travel — no matter your position! I’ve lugged hockey bags filled with toys down snowy streets of Montreal for TV segments, carried boxes filled with decor and sample clothes to previews, literally came back from my honeymoon and two days later was on another flight for an event. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on to make everything look “glam.”
What’s something about the industry that has surprised you?
It’s been really sad to witness and hear agency “horror stories.” It’s kind of become the norm that agency-life isn’t the healthiest. I’ve worked at agencies where I loved going to work every day and others where you had to drag me out of bed. And I’ve heard a lot of the same experiences from my peers. It’s such a shame because I learned an immense amount on the agency side but I also know there’s an obscene amount of expectations that make it hard to have a life outside of work.
How do you handle demanding clients?
Set boundaries. If you receive an email after hours that’s non-urgent, wait until the morning to send it. Also, create a to-do list on a daily basis. When you feel like you’re being asked for a lot of different things at once, I find it helpful to write them all down and prioritize what’s actually important.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or experienced on the job?
Canada! Because of my previous jobs, I travelled all over Canada and got to see parts of the country I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see otherwise.
What’s been your most rewarding career accomplishment thus far?
I’m still someone who gets excited every time I see a pitch come to life — I hope that feeling never goes away!
More recently, I was part of the Rakuten.ca team when we were Ebates.ca and it was my first time working on a company rebrand. It was so rewarding to be part of that team and to see how all of our different initiatives came together for this launch. From my side, I was managing 20 influencers, an experiential campaign and working on two national TV segments. It was such a thrill to see the real-time results that came from the work that I led.
When do you know it’s the right time to move on from a job?
It’s different for everyone, but I would say once you start feeling bored and stop feeling challenged it’s time to look for something else.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I wouldn’t say there’s one person who has been my inspiration — I have a group of former colleagues (you know who you are) who’ve all gone their separate ways but we still all keep in touch. They’ve become some of my closest friends and the amazing work that they’re all doing in their current roles inspires me every day. They are some of my biggest cheerleaders and I’m right there rooting for them every step of the way. They fuel me in my everyday work without even knowing it!