Monday, October 15, 2012

Interview with a PR professional


As a former Université de Saint-Boniface (USB) student, I was thrilled to meet their Communications Coordinator, Monique LaCoste, at a Manitoba IABC networking event this month. I couldn't think of a better person to interview. Without hesitation, she agreed to meet with me at her office the following week.

Monique LaCoste has over 18 years of experience as a CBC journalist. She is a well- known and respected public figure in the francophone community. She started as a radio announcer and transitioned to television in 2002.  She decided to focus on her family in 2006 and started Monique LaCoste Communications. Her initial plan was to take on radio, television and documentary projects but she was often called upon to produce communications materials for her clients’ public relations needs.

Why did she take the plunge and start a public relations career? It was really by accident that Monique made this decision.  She stumbled on a job posting that perfectly encompassed both her skills and her interests. This dream job is her current position at the USB.

She admits the transition was somewhat difficult. I was curious to know if any of her previous skills as a journalist proved to be useful for her current role. Her excellent writing and research skills have definitely come in handy.  "Being able to think fast, absorb important information and organize it in a concise and clear manner is crucial," says Monique. Not to mention she is quite media savvy. Monique understands how the media functions; what makes them cringe and what makes them embrace your story.

Typical is not the best way to describe her work weeks. Unpredictable would be much more suitable. She is currently juggling seven projects, which include an internal and external  fundraising campaign, the annual report, the Sous la coupole magazine, and much more. Oftentimes, she must drop everything to write a press release, a letter or even a speech as requested by other departments.

As we had discussed in class, a public relations campaign can take years of development before it can be successful and deemed to be true for Monique's proudest career milestone.

Her eyes lit up as she described the recent re-branding of the USB. I must admit, as a former student, I was fascinated to hear the details of this lengthy process.

  

Credit: La Liberté
From left to right, Raymonde Gagné, USB President and Monique LaCoste.


Although the re-branding of the university occurred within the last year, it took years of preparation to create significant buzz around the USB in order to influence public perception.

It began in 2009 with a public opinion poll to determine how familiar Manitobans were with the USB.  They  found that close to 56% of Manitobans knew or had heard of the USB.

Monique had her work cut out for her. A branding budget was set and specific projects were strategically picked to raise overall awareness of the USB brand in English and French media outlets. By 2011, 62% of Manitobans admitted they recognized the USB name.

Monique's efforts were finally paying off and as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, "USB has seen its enrolment soar by 8.4 per cent, bringing its total enrolment to an all-time record of 1,267 in 2012."

Needless to say, Monique is quite proud of the USB's new brand image. The creation of their new logo was definitely one of the highlights. An outside agency drafted 14 versions but it came down to 2 logos which were presented to a focus group. "It was a unanimous decision. Everybody agreed that our current logo was the right choice," exclaimed Monique.

The result is truly astonishing. The logo encompasses both the rich history of the institution yet incorporates its bright future. Click here to read more about the different aspects of the USB logo. 

As I chuckled nervously, I dared to ask her how one becomes a successful communications coordinator. She stressed that what differentiates an average PR practitioner to a top notch one is how #plugged in she/he is with their respective community. They must understand their publics before they can effectively communicate with them. Being #plugged in does not only mean being in tune with trends in the PR industry but also in the business world.
  
What a relief for a #plugged in gal like me!

Inspired by her dynamic energy, I asked her if she could provide any advice to a hopeful PR professional such as myself. She immediately shouted "GO FOR IT!  We are in a dire need for public relations practitioners, especially ones that can communicate in French." She assured me that formal training was the right path, and she does wish she would have known this before starting her own PR career.

Her last words of wisdom were simple: Be passionate. She didn’t hide the fact that her job is not a typical 9-5 job. A true PR professional loves to talk about their organization whether they’re on the clock or not. They are constantly looking for new opportunities to relate with their publics. 

She definitely worked some #prmagic on me. This interview solidified my decision to pursue a career in public relations.  It was a delight to meet a such a passionate public relations professional like Monique.

#lookingforwardtomyfuture


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