As a relative newcomer to Canada, I’ve been looking to make connections and get involved in Victoria’s community. When a current member mentioned CPRS-VI, I knew that it was for me.
Despite this, I was a little nervous attending its Annual General Meeting on May 18 – as a brand new member and a volunteer! Other professional networking events I’ve been to have been stuffy affairs, with attendees more interested in what’s in it for them than spending a few hours with like-minded people.
I needn’t have worried though. Welcomed by outgoing president, Dan Hurley, I was quickly set at ease and enjoyed chatting with other attendees about their work, my reasons for moving to Canada and even some of the local attractions around my hometown.
There was a great sense of community in the room, with members offering warm welcomes, encouragement and showing genuine enthusiasm to have a new volunteer in their midst.
It was an infectious feeling that carried me through the rest of the evening: no stuffy board meeting this, but a fun (occasionally rowdy) and insightful event.
Being a new member, it was interesting to hear Renee McCloskey, 2015/2016 CPRS National Board President, flesh out some of the history of the society, and the struggles of adapting to the expectations of its members, as well as the changing landscape of public relations.
It was reassuring to hear the strong footing that CPRS currently holds, both nationally and on Vancouver Island. Its focus on traditional values such as volunteering, advocacy and establishing professional standards leaves me feeling confident in the future of the society.
Equally fascinating our guest speaker, Bridgitte Anderson, General Manager of Edelman Vancouver, presentation on the shifting landscape of public relations. In a wide-ranging speech she reflected on the changes that she has seen in her time at Edelman, as well as how her experience as a journalist has shaped her approach to public relations.
Most striking to me were Bridgitte’s comments on how the digital landscape has allowed the public a greater voice than ever before, with events such as the Arab Spring and initiatives like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge showing how opinions are moving horizontally – through peer-to-peer sharing – rather than the traditional vertical of ‘elites’ to mass population. This has led to the rise of the ‘influencer’, with brands looking for advocates that audiences can relate to.
To end her talk, Bridgitte spoke about the need for a blending of disciplines – “communications marketing” as Edelman calls it – where good storytelling and emotional relevance are key to garnering trust and engagement. It is now more important than ever that companies leverage influencers’ voices to connect with their consumers.
Brigitte’s talk has stuck with me in the days following the meeting. Building trust and storytelling were key parts of my previous role, and it was interesting to hear her predictions for the future. I will be paying close attention to authenticity and emotional connection in my future projects.
As a first meeting, it was a great eye-opener, helping me to understand the society’s current goals and current standing. I left feeling that these people were just like me – enthusiastic about communicating and telling their stories – and that I will enjoy my time in CPRS-VI.
Thanks to you all for making me feel welcome, and to incoming CPRS-VI Peggy Kulmala for inviting me along.
I’m looking forward to volunteering with CPRS-VI’s Media & Promotions Committee, and can’t wait for the next event.
Brendan has over six years’ communications experience with University College London in the U.K. He recently immigrated to Canada, and is presently looking for public relations/communications opportunities.