Written by: Jahrusha Coke-Talbot
Edited by: Emilee Darling & Patricia Michelena
On the morning of October 22nd I was up bright and early for the first CPRS Student event of the year: the annual #PRRoadTrip. I’d been anticipating it since the beginning of the season, since CPRS has always had amazing Road Trips – where students are able to get info and networking opportunities from actual professionals working in multiple fields of public relations. This year’s Road Trip was an hour-long meeting where we met the minds behind the Ottawa locations of two public relations agencies. The agencies we visited were the prestigious and well-known FleishmanHillard and their sister company, High Road.
FleishmanHillard is known as the country’s leading integrated strategic communications and public affairs firm, with a mix of innovative thinking and an integrated approach to their communication strategies. This is seen through their highly impressive clientele, which includes Mars, Canadian Tire, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Boeing, and the MS Society of Canada. Senior Partner & General Manager Nicolas Ruszkowski headed their portion of the presentation, with assistance from Jacqueline Haarsma, Associate Vice President VP and Joanne Pitkin who is an Associate Consultant.
High Road describes itself as the most agile and committed team of communicators on the planet, living for “killer ideas” and “dying to deliver”. This is what High Roaders do. They have offices in major cities all across North America, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Los Angeles. Their unique hashtag #WeMakeItPersonal is applied throughout their clientele list, which features well-known companies like Facebook, AMEX, Nike, and Sobeys. Heading their presentation was HighRoad’s Vice President Natalie Sauvé, who was accompanied by the Account Director, Lesley Sturla and Jessica Bird, the Account Supervisor and content strategist.
The event started with the CPRS attendees milling around and tentatively approaching each other – we PR students are all too familiar with networking and meeting our peers. Since it was so early in the morning, our current Director of the Student Program at CPRS, Joan Wright, had thoughtfully provided a buffet-style breakfast for all the students… free food on a student budget – who can resist? After digging in, we continued with an icebreaker activity: introducing ourselves and discussing our levels of education and involvement in the PR scene.
We met an amazing group of PR Professionals who gave us great advice as well as insight into the working world of PR – what to expect if agency life is where your interest lies, from interning all the way to Vice Presidency. They shared information about actual projects that they had completed, and gave step-by-step details on how they brainstorm and collaborate all branches of the agency when undertaking a new project. Even though there are clear professional lines in the workplace, there is a real feeling of community and equality at both HighRoad and FleishmanHillard. There were a few standout quotes that came from everyone who presented that all PR students could benefit from whether agency life is the goal or not.
- Think of yourself as a brand
- Be fearlessly yourself
- Invest in your own career
- When interviewing, show you can add value from the beginning
- When interviewing, do your research and ask smart, critical questions
- Know what the general impression of yourself that you want to leave behind is
- Persistence pays off
- Knowing what you want pays off
- Work on your writing (repeated over and over)
- Every interview is an opportunity to make a connection and to make a friend
- There’s always going to be someone who thinks you’re not right for the job, and that’s okay
- Never underestimate the power of personal relationships
There were three quotes that stood out to me:
Lesley Sturla: “you can’t teach personality.” This is so true. Being yourself and knowing what you bring as an individual to PR will benefit you greatly in the field and life in general.
Nicolas Ruszkowski told us: “If you don’t love what you do, you’re not going to be successful at what you do.” Truer words have never been spoken; love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.
In closing, Natalie Sauvé said that at HighRoad “we work hard, but we play harder”. Their commitment to their clients and their creativity are prime examples of that. They have the perfect balance of professionalism and fun.