Grad doesn’t consider PR “The Dark Side”
Posted by bwaite on May 11, 2009
By William Lin, Class of 2009
Two decades ago, Bruce Williams covered a murder in East York. It was to be his last story.
A Centennial College journalism student, Williams spent late evenings toiling on the student-run East York Observer. He covered fairly routine stories, from advertisements on garbage trucks to an apartment protest where tenants set furniture on fire. But, he was bothered by the murder.
“That’s sort of what led me to not want to be a journalist, because part of that was having to interview the family of the murdered person. And, I just couldn’t do it,” Williams said. He was also frustrated by the lack of creativity while writing sports copy at his placement at 680 News.
So, after graduating in 1992, he took Centennial’s then two-year corporate communications program, where his writing and design skills found a new home. Today, Williams works as Centennial’s advertising manager in the marketing department, a return full circle to his alma mater. He credits Centennial’s corporate communications program for his career.
“It gives you a fair bit of breadth of knowledge and skills, and that’s what I enjoyed about it. It’s not just focused on writing. It’s designing, writing, editing. It’s interviewing,” he said.
Like reporting, his current job is deadline-driven; he gets three to four calls a day from college departments asking for brochures, posters and mini-marketing plans to promote programs. Williams is responsible for two designers, handles mass media advertising and creates ads for courses and programs. It’s his first marketing position, but Williams said the skills are transferrable from corporate communications. “You just kind of tweak your thinking a bit.”
When Williams refers to his journalism background, he often gets wry comments. “They say ‘oh, so you’ve come over the dark side,” he said. “I don’t think marketing has to be seen as dark. I think if you have a good product or a good service or whatever it is, you’re promoting those benefits and services in an ethical way, there’s nothing dark about that,” he said.
In fact, Williams has always used his communications skills to aid others. After graduating, he did contract work for Canada Housing Mortgage Corporation and the Ontario Heritage Foundation. He then spent three years at Goodwill Industries of Toronto and another three at what was then known as Foster Parents Plan.
He was eventually hired as a communications coordinator at Centennial after bumping into the marketing director at a magazine store one afternoon. He was soon promoted to advertising manager.
“That’s another way I can justify being in marketing and communications. I’m working for organizations that help better lives. It’s not like I’m other there on the street talking to people and helping them, but I’m contributing in some small way.”