Tag Archives: School

First Semester Over


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

What’s going on?

I spent a lot of my time over the past year wondering what direction to take when I finish my undergraduate degree this year. My mind was all over the place but in the end, I looked at what experience I have, what interests me, and the logical choice that flows from that.

In January, I will be starting the Corporate Communications + Public Relations post-graduate certificate program at Centennial College. I am so very excited about the program, the experiences I will have, and how it will prepare me for a career that I know is right for me.

What is Public Relations?

It seems that the PR community can’t agree on a definition. The Critical Perspectives in PR course I took last year told me that, but even after roaming around the web I can’t seem to find an exact definition.

The Canadian Public Relations Society defines PR as:

“the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

My working (and broad) definition, which will change as I go through the CC+PR program, is:

“the practice of managing strategic relationships between a company or organization and its employees and the public. It is about allowing for a clear communication channel between two or more parties in order to develop and maintain a brand, message, or cause.”

According to Inside PR, there are five major segments of PR: Media Relations, Government Relations, Stakeholder Relations, Investor Relations, and Internal/Employee Communications. Within each of these segments, various PR tactics such as writing, event planning, and image management, are used.

Why Public Relations?

When I flipped through my current resume and a few of my older ones, I found common themes that all pointed me towards PR. The most obvious cues in this direction are my internships.

My first internship through UWO was with Big Brothers of London. There I helped organize the ‘Bowl for Kids’ Sake’ fundraiser and communicated with the media, local companies, and current members to raise funds and find participants. My second internship was with IBM Canada as a Corporate Communications intern. It was sixteen months full of amazing opportunities and experiences that had me creating various communication media, working on two different conferences (one which sent me to Japan), and a lot more. My most recent internship, and my part-time job now, is as a Knowledge Engineer with IBM. It is not directly associated with PR, but I am editing technical documents by adhering to publishing and company standards. I see the impact of my work on the relationships between the company and the customers it needs to support.

My other related experiences include being a communications student-at-large for the University Student Council, acting as a communications officer for a club on campus, and helping organize an orientation event in high school.

The more I dig, the more examples I can find that lead me to believe that PR is what I should be doing.

Why more school?

I may have related experience but I am not a fool. I haven’t learned enough about the various PR functions or tactics. I don’t know how to put together a communications plan or handle media relations or write to persuade. I know that in order to succeed in this industry and to be at the same level as my fellow job hunters, I need to take a practical college program that will equip me with all the tools and knowledge and connections that I need.

Why Centennial?

Beyond its great reputation for successful graduates and a quality program, Centennial is recognized for its additional focus on social media and online PR.

Not only am I interested in social media because of my technical background, but I have been active in one way or another online since 1997. At IBM, I worked with some great people who are proponents for social media and are enthusiastic about recognizing the benefits of social media practices for companies. From all that I have learned (and I will write about this at another time), I believe that it is a mistake as a PR practitioner to ignore the Internet and its impact on communications. There are many great tools that can be used online and there is an ever-increasing expectation that new PR students are able to use these tools successfully.

To quote the Inside PR team:

“Social media gives us another really powerful tool to use … [as] media relations is tougher now than it has ever been. There are fewer cameras chasing more stories, and certainly in the Toronto market and in other large urban centers, it’s really tough to get media coverage unless you have a really good story. So why not explore those tools that allow us to reach beyond the narrow confines of earned media and take our message directly to the audience that we’re trying to reach … It gives us more control to reach a better-defined audience with a message that we can deliver on our own terms. … In five years, those who don’t know social media in the public relations space will be the equivalent of those, currently, who don’t do media relations in PR”

So now what?

I have been following PR-related blogs for a while now and as I finish off my last undergraduate semester, I would like to start participating in the online PR conversation. I used to write a lot in the past and I think I need to start writing again to document my thoughts and experiences, as well as to participate in these interesting conversations.

I have pulled together some old blog posts from some of my old blogs but from this post on, I will be writing new material here.

Hopefully not all my posts will be as long as this one, but I welcome all comments and suggestions.