Grad’s work has global impact

As part of my PR Writing 1: Writing to Inform class last semester, I had the opportunity to meet and interview a graduate of the Corporate Communications and Public Relations program at Centennial College. I wrote the following feature article based on that interview and it is now also posted on the The Word: the CC+PR program’s blog.

by Uma Chandran, Class of 2009

sabita-singhWhen 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 at Centennial College 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.”

First Semester Over

goodjob

It’s already been four months and my first semester at Centennial College is over. It’s hard to believe that it’s over considering how much we had to do.

Our courses were:

  • Project Management
  • Introduction to Corporate Communications
  • Public Relations Writing 1: Writing to Inform
  • Canadian Business Practices
  • Event Management
  • Media Relations
  • Copy Editing

These courses were interesting and engaging and gave us the chance to learn a lot of the basic skills that we need to go forward into second semester and then into the field of communications.

On top of writing, editing, planning and presenting, we also did a lot of strategic thinking, participated in intelligent and creative discussions, and took part in a few role-playing activities (including a mock news conference and making mock agency pitches to a fake client).

I learned a lot this semester but there are two things that really stand out:

We can do anything

I realized that as a group of students, we really do have the skills, drive and talent to succeed. I say this because for our Event Management course, we were split into groups and had to put on events in the community with a budget of $0. With a lot of hard work, initiative, creativity and support for each other, we put on three really successful events. Two of which raised more than $1,000 for charity (combined) and one that brought down the house at a retirement centre. It’s hard not to be proud of my peers and the work we’ve done.

This is for me

I love that communications is creative and involves writing, editing, designing and planning. However, before starting this program, I had no idea how much strategic thinking and problem solving communicators do. That aspect is something I love and it makes me realize, even more, that my decision to pursue the field of communications was a good one.

What’s next?

I have this week off between semesters and I plan to spend it exploring my goals for the next few months. I want to think about who I’d like to do a client project with and where I may want to do an internship.  Of course, I’ll also spent a lot of my time resting before the next set of courses start.

Photo Credit: BookMama – Creative Commons Licence (BY-NC-ND)

What I learned at 360 Degrees

handshakeLast week, I attended the 7th annual 360 Degrees: All Things Connected, an event hosted by the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS).   The event was organized by the student steering committee for students and junior PR practitioners and was well worth the ticket price.

They split us into groups based on the preferences we indicated on our registration form and we rotated through three sessions on three different sectors of public relations and corporate communications.

I ended up in Group C: Crisis Communications, Agency and Corporate/Internal Communications.

A lot was said in the three hours but here are the points that stuck out for me:

Agency:

  • In an agency, you’re surrounded by people who do communications too.  This can be a valuable experience and may bring a sense of community that you may not feel in a small communications department for a corporation.
  • Tasks as an entry level practitioner may include: creating media lists, doing media calls and pitches, organizing meetings and staff events, doing research and doing media and online monitoring.
  • 25% of your tasks will involve researching about the client and anything related to that organization or project.
  • One of your other main tasks will be media monitoring,  so know the media and love the news.

Internal Communications:

  • Most people believe that internal communications is just about writing the newsletter, but it can more than that.  You can be the coach who mobilizes and engages employees.
  • You can work with upper management to develop plans that will engage employees and ensure that they are aware of, understand and believe in the organization’s brand.
  • People spend most of their lives at work and you get to make them love it.  You help employees feel pride in where they work and feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

Crisis Communications:

  • Every plan is just a plan. It needs to be flexible and adaptable in any situation.
  • There are early warnings for crises – they don’t just drop from the sky, so plan ahead and pay attention.
  • Take time to look at how your organization or other similar ones dealt with crises in the past.  Learn from these examples.

I left the event with a lot of notes and was impressed with how things rolled out.  The only negative thing was that I would have loved to participate in all the other groups too, such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Media, Media Relations, Non-profit and Financial.

Either way, it was a well-organized event. Thank you to all the speakers and the student steering committee for doing a great job.

Photo credit: oooh.oooh – Creative Commons Licence (BY-NC-SA)

One of the many reasons why I love Toronto:

Pillow fight

Public pillow fights at Yonge-Dundas Square.

I stopped by Saturday afternoon with a friend to watch as random strangers pulled out their pillows for some fun. We laughed ourselves silly as people enthusiastically returned to their childhood days and participated in a good-hearted pillow fight.

It wasn’t violent.  Some people were dressed up.  A few little kids happily and safely participated.  And it lasted a very long time.

Good job Newmindspace!

Feathers everywhere Naptime after the pillow fight

Spring Skating

In an effort to get out and enjoy my Spring Break and explore the city, I went out to the Natrel Skating Rink at the Harboufront Centre today.

Skating there has been a part of my Canadian winter memories for about ten years now. Each winter I would go skating with my high school band or with a group of friends in the evening.  Skating at night, we would enjoy the magical feeling of skating by the lake on the rink, lit up by Christmas lights and spot lights and listening to some oldies but goodies.

Today I did something different. I went by myself during the day and was pleasantly surprised.  I was able to skate for more than an hour in the bright, soul-warming sunshine with only six others on the ice.  At first it was quiet but half way through they turned the music on.

Either way, it was both refreshing and relaxing.  I enjoyed the rush of the cold (but not freezing) air as I skated and watched couples – both young and young at heart – skate, dogs run by merrily with their owners, and some stray planes land over the water at the City Airport in the distance.

When I finished, I was happy that I took a chance. I got over my reservations about exploring on my own and got over my lazy desire to stay on the couch with my computer and the tv (which was great over the weekend but now it was time to move on).

Afterwards, I enjoyed a nice warm drink at a nearby coffee shop, as per tradition.  I was happy I came and even happier to know that I’m taking two of my international friends from school there tomorrow.