The Word

about Centennial’s Corporate Communications + PR program

Archive for June, 2009

Finding your best fit

Posted by bwaite on June 2, 2009

Grad Shannon Morton

Grad Shannon Morton

By Shoneez Munshi, Class of 2009

On the surface, Shannon Morton had it all. She had earned a degree in English literature from Queen’s University in 2001 and found success working at IBM in dispute resolution. But she had an itch to do more. She wasn’t satisfied; she didn’t feel challenged and she knew she could achieve more.

She heard from friends about the Corporate Communications and Public Relations program at Centennial College. She decided to take the risk and leave IBM. So in 2003, she cashed in her stocks and decided to go for it.

“Because I had just come out of the workforce, I didn’t take the experience of going back to school for granted,” says Morton.  She threw herself into her classes with fervour and relished being back at school. As a result of her hard work, Morton received IABC’s Kay Staib Memorial Award for earning the highest marks in her class.

After completing the program in April 2004, she then when on to do her internship at High Road Communications, an agency that deals with technology and lifestyle companies. Morton originally hoped to gain a position out of her internship, but, when it was over, there were no openings. She knew it wasn’t meant to be.

Within a few weeks of leaving High Road, Morton learned of an opening at Apex Public Relations.  “As soon as I walked in, I felt like I was coming home,” says Morton.  Right away, Morton ‘fell in love’ with her firm’s president Pat McNamara, and account director, Erin Hardy.

“I got a warm, fuzzy feeling about Apex,” says Morton.  She knew she had finally found her best fit.

She works with clients such as UPS, Bank of Montreal, George Brown College and Toronto Hydro.  Morton loves her job and has been with Apex Public Relations for almost five years. She was recently promoted to the position of senior consultant.

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Grad’s work has global impact

Posted by bwaite on June 1, 2009

by Uma Chandran, Class of 2009

sabita-singh

Grad Sabita Singh

When Sabita Singh starts work each morning at Sun Life Financial, she feels a great sense of pride.  As the director of digital communications, Singh leads the company’s global digital communications strategy – a rare role for a Toronto-based communicator.

“It’s exciting to have the ability to shape the digital footprint of an international company,” she says.  “I’m proud of my work because it has a global impact on our web presence in the US, the UK, Asia and other regions around the world.”

Singh, an Accredited Business Communicator (ABC), graduated from the Corporate Communications program in 1989.  She entered the PR field through her internship and, since then, has worked in many different sectors including real estate, pharmaceutical, high tech and financial services.

Singh spent more than 10 years doing internal communications in various roles, including three years as a manager at Sprint Canada.  It was there that she first had experience with digital communications, managing the company’s intranet site, and quickly realized that she had found her niche. 

“Digital communications is great because it’s always changing; it’s easy to measure and it’s never boring, especially with the introduction of social media which is revolutionizing the way we communicate.”

With her new interest in digital communications, Singh took her expertise to AstraZeneca Canada, iStudio and to her current position at Sun Life Financial.

“I’m always thinking about what I want to do next,” Singh says.

Singh’s determination and initiative have been recognized by her peers numerous times through awards including an IABC Ovation Award, a CPRS Creative Excellence Award and an IABC Gold Quill Award. An award-winning project she is most proud of is the redesign sunlife.com in 2008.

Using the strategic planning tools that she learned years ago at Centennial College, Singh led the transformation of the company’s international website. The website is now user friendly, incorporates social media and, because of improved search engine optimization, now ranks higher in search engines like Google.

 “In one year, we’ve come so far in the digital world. It’s exciting to be a part of a company that recognizes the importance of the web in communicating with its customers, employees and other diverse audiences. We’re moving from behind the times to leading the way in a short period of time.”

 Singh attributes her impressive successes to her strong will and hard work. However, she also enthusiastically credits the Corporate Communications program for teaching her all the right skills.

 “Everything I learned at Centennial, I’ve used in the workforce. It’s all practical – writing, editing, graphic design, strategy… I really do credit my success to Centennial,” she says. “I have a lot of respect for the program. It’s a great starting point for the field.”

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Jacquie Fabro’s smart choice

Posted by bwaite on June 1, 2009

 By Natalia Dobrynina, Class of 2009

jacquie-fabro

Grad Jacquie Fabro

The questions that occupy most managers’ minds are:  how to improve relations between employer and employees, how to raise the company’s productivity and how to boost the overall morale of the organization.

Benefits are the one area where companies often need an outsider’s help to represent this information to their employees correctly so staff can understand and appreciate the value of the perks on offer.

Jacquie Fabro, a communication consultant with Morneau Sobeco and a graduate of Centennial’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program, provides managers and employees with advice and information support in a most important, but quite complicated area, pensions and benefits. “My challenge is to explain this complex subject to the employees that they can appreciate and value it.”

Centennial’s program caught Fabro’s attention from the first moment when she came to the college. And she has been building her career with employee communications since the graduation.

“The program was split evenly between corporate communications and public relations back in 2003,” recalls Fabro. “And I chose corporate communication to be my passion and professional interest.”

As a student, Fabro learned important skills that prepared for her future job. “Our teachers connected with us and tried to pull out things from us to help us succeed professionally and personally.”

One of the lessons that comes immediately to mind is writing for PR purposes. Loving writing and having a major in the professional writing from the University of Ottawa, she started to realize the difference between academic and PR writing styles. “Writing at the university was mostly wordy, indescribable, and completely opposite of PR writing. It took me some time to get accustomed to precise, concise PR writing.”

The tactics for PR writing she learned at Centennial align with her present-day reality. Her job, as for any other communicator, is to find the most effective ways to reach her audience.  “To get your information accepted by the audience, to make them want to do what you intend them to do means your message should be short and simple. This is what I learned and what happens every day in my job. Get to your point right away. You have only few minutes of the audience’s attention – you don’t want to miss it.”

Working as a communications consultant for Canada’s largest pension and benefits consulting and outsourcing firm, she provides communication services to a broad variety of clients – from small and middle-size companies to large corporations.

Fabro meets with clients, conducts focus groups, and prepares presentations, newsletters and print materials that make complicated information about the benefits and pension plans clear to employees.

“We usually start from the clients’ expectations and needs. It’s not so rare that they don’t know what they really want or need in terms of communications. We help them to determine the plan that suits their corporate culture and situation the best. To be close to employees does not necessarily guarantee understanding them better. We can communicate in a neutral way.”

Her position requires versatility, lots of patience, and hours of writing, some knowledge of social psychology and the ability to be “communications inventor.” Mix together but do not stir. That’s a recipe for the successful corporate communicator.

For PR tenderfoots she shares this advice:  “Keep your mind open! Everyone wants a glamorous PR job but it might not be as interesting and fascinating as you expect. So, be open for different opportunities and always speak up. Never be afraid to share your ideas.”

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