The Word

about Centennial’s Corporate Communications + PR program

Archive for April, 2008

Living the agency life

Posted by apriltsui on April 15, 2008

by April Tsui, Corporate Communications & PR ’08

When Andrea Craig, senior consultant at Hill & Knowlton Canada, graduated from Centennial College’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program in 2003, she began her career in the dark.

As a junior public relations practitioner at Strategic Objectives, Craig worked 10- to 14-hour days and “didn’t see sunshine for a year.” She tackled every task with a can-do attitude and took every opportunity to deepen her public relations knowledge.

Andrea Craig“Centennial really gave me a broad foundation to work from,” says Craig. “And without Centennial, I would never have landed such a great internship.”

At first, much of Craig’s work was tactical. “There was very little client interaction,” she says. “I also did a lot of media tracking and analysis. I had to read the daily papers on rotation — that’s how we started the day.”

Craig’s dedication was quickly recognized and she soon took on greater responsibilities, such as managing budgets and mentoring younger public relations practitioners. Still early in her career, she had already contributed to many interesting projects, one of which involved inviting Prince Andrew of the British royal family to christen a new building at Toronto General Hospital.

In August 2005, Craig joined Hill & Knowlton Canada. “I wanted to see what it was like at a bigger firm that had more training and resources,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to go to Hill & Knowlton, and only applied there. Luckily, I was hired!”

Craig’s responsibilities as senior consultant include developing media relations strategies, media training, brainstorming, team, budget and project management and client relations. “There is no ‘typical day’ at the agency. There are always surprises,” she says. “But even though some surprises may be bad, you still learn something from them.”

“Marketing communications is the most fun but also the most challenging,” Craig says of her primary area of practice. “There are so many consumer products out there. You really need to think about how you are going to pitch yours to the media and make it stand out.”

Craig points out that practise makes media relations less intimidating. “It’s scary when you pick up the phone that first time. Media relations is something that doesn’t come naturally; everybody has to learn.” She also enjoys collaborating with other areas of practice, including health, aboriginal affairs and technology, for major projects.

Craig suggests students wishing to work in agency launch their careers at boutique firms. “The learning curve is much steeper, it’s more chaotic and you’ll be thrown into situations. It’s trial by fire!”

She also has a few pieces of advice for junior practitioners: be willing to do anything, say “yes” no matter how mundane the work may seem and work really hard. “Your hard work will pay off,” she says.

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Student podteams interview practitioners

Posted by Gary Schlee on April 8, 2008

Second semester students in the Online PR course recently conducted interviews with PR folks involved in digital communication and social media as part of a podcast series. The first episode is an interview with David Jones, VP of digital communications for Hill & Knowlton Canada in Toronto, co-host of the Inside PR podcast, and blogger at PR Works. He discusses the impact of social media on public relations.

The student podteams produced the podcast episodes.

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Four events raise money for charity

Posted by Gary Schlee on April 3, 2008

Students in the program’s Event Management course are organizing four special events that take place over the next week. First up is Re:Action, an opportunity for local artists and photographers to share their work illustrating revitalized downtown Toronto areas shared by artists and low-income individuals.

ActionThe artists include Adrian Blackwell, Heather Kocsis, Bogdan Luca, Amanda Nedham, Hazel Eckert, Lauren Wright, Eric Euler and Kaleena Stasiak. University of Toronto professor and visual artist Adrian Blackwell will be speaking at the event, and music is by singer/songwriter Andrew Austin and DJ Johnpee.

All proceeds go to Sketch: working arts for street involved and homeless youth.Re:Action is this Saturday, April 5, at 7p.m., at the Hang Man Gallery, 756 Queen Street East, Toronto.

The following day is The Spring Roll, a bowling event to raise money for the 236th A Scout Troop. It takes place at Thorncliffe Bowl on Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m.

Next week, it’s Free Your Mind, on April 8, in support of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, and Punch Card, on April 10, a fundraiser for Shape Your Life.

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Nadia Vercillo: A World of Experience

Posted by Colleen Monks on April 1, 2008

by Colleen Monks, Corporate Communications & PR ’08

Nadia Vercillo, a Corporate Communications and Public Relations graduate, continues to use skills she learned at Centennial in her role as Manager of Corporate Communications and Public Relations at the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA).

Media relations is an integral part of Vercillo’s job at OVMA. “The writing and anything I learned about the media at Centennial still holds true,” Vercillo says. However, media situations that occur unexpectedly can become quite stressful. When Menu Foods issued a pet food recall of products imported from China, Vercillo was flooded with media calls for three weeks. She then had to develop a communications plan and prepare veterinarians with key messages for dealing with the media.

Nadia VercilloAnother one of Vercillo’s roles is managing editor of OVMA’s publication, Focus Magazine. She is responsible for every aspect of Focus, including classified and commercial advertising, publication policy, and writing and editing the content.

Vercillo also oversees the art direction. “The graphic design I learned really set me up,” she says, explaining how her experience has allowed her to be more precise in her conversations with the design team.

While she loves her job at OVMA, Vercillo considers herself lucky to have gained such great past experiences, especially through her two years working in Europe.

For one year, she worked in London, England, as the communications coordinator and then communications manager for an interactive health care company. Here, Vercillo was able to put her communication skills to practice when convincing health care systems of the effectiveness of interactive health care programs.

Vercillo then moved on to Paris, France, for a year where she worked as the business communications and cultural trainer at Impact Communications, a language training school. In this position, she came face-to-face with the existing cultural differences when she trained clients in understanding North American business practices.

In her past and present job experiences, Vercillo has experienced some hectic situations but says there are ways to make work easier. To people just entering the field, she recommends that they have some attachment to the job. “Life is tough and gets more complicated with people wanting to have kids, families and volunteer. But it gets easier if you’re interested in what you’re doing”.

Vercillo’s attachment to her job at OVMA is clear through her love for animals and deep respect for the veterinarians that care for them. On top of that, work can be a learning experience when you are truly invested in the job. “The best part of this job is I can learn as much as possible. As much as I’m helping, the company is helping me.”

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