Category Archives: School

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)

School projects and Wikis

One of the courses we are taking this semester is Event Management and our major project, as you may expect, is to work in a team to put on an event.

During our very first meeting, I suggested that we set up a wiki.

All of my group members had heard of wikis before but maybe only one or two of us had ever used them. So I quickly set up a private wiki on pbwiki and invited them to use it.

I had only briefly gone over why we should be using a wiki and so I think I will go into a bit more detail here.

What are the advantages of using a wiki?

  • For the most part, using a wiki doesn’t really require any special technical skills. Even if you need the brief how-to session, it’s pretty simple to use.
  • It allows you to collaborate with a group of people (regardless of how many people) without having to e-mail documents and files back and forth, and without having to worry about losing an important e-mail in your crowded inbox
  • It’s a great way to keep all information related to a project in one central place
  • Everyone can add and edit information and it’s easy to track changes
  • You can always revert to previous versions of a page
  • You can record and access current information from anywhere, whether or not you have the files and regardless of what system you are using
  • You can receive notification when a page or information has changed
  • You can lock the wiki so that only a select few can view and/or edit the pages

What are the disadvantages?

  • For some people, there is still a learning curve (even if it is much smaller for wikis than other options)
  • If you are using a public wiki service, it may not be as secure as you would like it to be
  • If you are meeting your group in person and you won’t have access to a computer, you will still need to print off the important pages

Right now, it seems as if most of my group members are doing ok with the wiki.  I understand that there is a little bit of frustration because a wiki doesn’t function the exact same way as a word processing program, but I think that will pass over time.

I’m sure that once we split up our duties, the wiki will be really useful for recording our findings and activities for each other to see.

Are there any other advantages or disadvantages for using a wiki? How do you use wikis?

Photo Credit: teemow – Creative Commons License (BY-NC-SA)

Starting A New Chapter

So, my first week at Centennial College is over.  I’m really excited about the program and so far it looks like it’s going to be exactly what I expected and desired.

This semester we’re taking Introduction to Corporate Communication, PR Writing 1, Event Management, Project Management, Media Relations, Copy Editing and Canadian Business Practices.  While I loved my combined program at Western and I tried to ensure that all my courses there were interesting, I can’t remember a time when I was this engaged with my classes. I realize it’s early and I still haven’t been hit with the crazy workload, but hopefully this continues.

I find the content interesting and relevant and I love the way the teachers include current examples and their personal stories.  It keeps me engaged and I know that I’m already learning a lot about the field.

Now that the program has begun, I’m looking forward to networking with other students and professionals in the field.  I plan to look into CPRS and IABC student memberships and also to start branching out online.  I have spent the past six months or so adding numerous PR blogs to my RSS reader and reading along.  Unfortunately, I’ve been too shy to comment and join the conversation.

My next step is to stop hiding in the shadows and start participating in these lively conversations.  Part of that is commenting on other blogs, but it also means writing more blog posts myself and tweeting more.

Let’s see how it goes.

Photo credit: James Sarmiento

Editorial Cartooning

What's A 'Rwanda'?

I know I haven’t posted in a long time and this is because school has been hectic. I just finished the craziest week of the semester (so far) which included something due every day of the week.

One of these major projects was my Media, Information, and Technoculture honours seminar project. I am enrolled in the The Art of Commentary: Editorial Cartooning and the Role of Dissidence in the Press seminar class in which we study editorial cartoons and the history of cartooning. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the class but it is now one of my favourites. We not only look at editorial cartoons, but we also learn about the political and historical events that were occurring at that time and see how the cartoonists engaged in political commentary through their work. It’s amazing how powerful and strong the cartoonists’ messages can be.

Along with attending lectures, we each worked on a research project throughout the semester and then held a half-hour seminar for the class to present our work. For my project, I looked at the topic of genocide – something I became very interested in and passionate about since I took the Century of Genocide class last year. I started by researching all editorial cartoons that deal with genocide and then slowly put together a theme.

I ended up talking about the phrase “Never Again”. After each genocidal event starting from the Holocaust, we (the public, the international community, and the United Nations) said “Never again”. However, we all know that genocide has happened and is happening again and again.

What I found through my research is that editorial cartoonists criticize the United Nations, the western nations, the western media, and the public for their lack of interest, lack of action, and inability to do something to save people (an inability that comes from conflicts of interest, veto powers, etc). It has now gotten to the point where the cartoonists look straight at the words “Never Again” and show how empty the words are. “Never Again” is just rhetoric.

In my presentation, I used these themes and worked through information and cartoons about the Holocaust, Rwanda, and Darfur. I was nervous about not giving the topic enough time because it is very important but I feel like it went well. I want to highlight here two of my favourite cartoons, both of which I think have powerful messages:

The UN's Strongest Warning against Sudan

They Always Say That

And finally, I finished the presentation with the following animated editorial cartoon (you have to click through to view the flash video). I look forward to your comments.

Never Again... Again