CPRS Vancouver Board of Directors Profile: Rashpal Rai, APR

Rashpal RaiRashpal Rai, APR, has been an active member of CPRS for the past 20 years, and has served on both the CPRS Vancouver chapter and National boards. This year, Rashpal Rai will be taking on the role as the Director of Senior-Level Professional Development. In 2011, he took on the role as the CPRS National Director and served two terms (six years). He was elected to the CPRS Vancouver Board of Directors in 2007 as Secretary Treasurer. In 2008, he took on the role of Finance Director and Vice Chair for organizing committee for the 2009 CPRS National Conference.

John Kageorge (CPRS Vancouver Director of Membership) and Richard Truscott (CPRS National Past President) share their thoughts:

“Rashpal’s earnest energy is a marvel. He works to advance our profession in every encounter, statement, and gesture. Before you know it, you realize that he’s imparted yet another career building tip to help you. We’re really lucky to have him back on the CPRS Vancouver Board.” - John Kageorge

“Rashpal is one of the most dedicated public relations professionals I know. During our time together on the CPRS national board, he was a steady source of sage advice and thoughtful contributions. Without a doubt, Rashpal has been a tireless advocate for the profession, and has always been willing to generously donate his time in support of other public relations practitioners.” -  Richard Truscott

Name: Rashpal Rai, APR

Job Title: Manager, Communications Planning

Company you work for: Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC)

What is your role as member of the CPRS Vancouver Board of Directions? Director, Senior-Level Professional Development

Best career advice: To gain the respect of your business colleagues as senior communications and business professional, you need to understand their business area or perspective by what makes them tick and knowing their language before they can begin to appreciate the value you bring to the table.

History with CPRS: I’ve been involved with CPRS since I graduated from university. I became a student member, and later an affiliate member with the Vancouver Island Chapter in 1997 and served on their Board of Directors in 1998 before moving to Vancouver. I became a National member in 1999 and volunteered for the 2001 CPRS National Conference in Whistler and later became a volunteer with the Vancouver chapter. I served as Secretary/Treasurer for CPRS Vancouver in 2007/08 and 2009 to 2011 and was the Conference Vice-Chair and Finance Chair for the 2009 CPRS National Conference, which was held in Vancouver. I also served on the National Board of Directors from 2011 to 2017. I achieved my APR designation in 2013.

What first drove you to become involved in communications?

During a conversation I had with some friends back in Grade 11 about our career aspirations, one friend suggested that I would be great at Public Relations. While in my first year at Camosun College in Victoria, I had the opportunity to meet with the Manager of College Relations who just happened to be the outgoing CPRS National President. She introduced me to CPRS and suggested I contact the National Office to gather some information about PR education programs.

After doing some research over the next two years, I heard about the Bachelor of Public Relations program that was offered at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS. I moved to Halifax in the fall of 1993 to take some first-year courses, then applied and was accepted into the degree program. After completing my degree, I moved back to B.C. and did a short stint at Langara College. Then, I landed a job working on communications projects and planning with Envirotest Canada, which was the contractor for the now closed AirCare vehicle emissions testing program. I worked there for over 15 years, first as a specialist for five years, then taking over the department as public relations and communications manager in 2005.

What are you most proud of in your career?

There are quite a few highlights that come to mind, but my proudest moment was achieving my APR designation. Going through the APR application and examination process was a painstaking and intense experience, but well worth it. The icing on the cake was receiving my APR pin in front of other APR’s and CPRS members whom I admired, respected and learned from in my early years with CPRS. It was truly a special moment and proved to me that I chose the right profession and belonged to a wonderful group of professionals I call my CPRS family.

If you could give any advice to someone beginning their career in PR/Communications, what would it be?

My advice to the next generation of communicators is to take the time to learn from seasoned communications practitioners and soak up the experiences you will gain in working on the various communications projects and initiatives early in your career, regardless of how big or small they are. I think too often, younger professionals are looking for instant gratification and wanting to move quickly up the ladder. Make sure you take the time to gain and understand the knowledge, hone your craft and earn your stripes to get to the next level.

How has your involvement with CPRS benefitted your career?

I have been a member of CPRS for 20 years, and for much of the time, I’ve actively given my time to the Society and its members. Being involved with CPRS helped me build my credibility within my organization and in the communications community in Vancouver and across Canada. CPRS provides professional development to its members and strongly encourages their members to embody the sound and ethical practice in public relations and communications management. Having a group of like-minded professionals to connect with, learn from, and share experiences helps to promote the importance for members to always aspire to be better.

What is the best part about working in communications in Vancouver?

Metro Vancouver is full of cultural diversity, natural beauty and has an active business community. It’s nice to be able leave my office in North Vancouver and see the skyline of the downtown core across Vancouver Harbour on one side and the mountains on the other.

What’s something people may not know about you?

I guess you can say that I was always meant to be in public relations/communications. I became aware of the importance of building relationships with stakeholders and audiences at a very young age, albeit at a very small and personal scale.

Grade 8 was a tough school year for me. Although I was born in Victoria, I would often be teased and picked on by some students simply for the fact that I looked different from anyone else and people didn’t know much about my cultural background (unsurprisingly). I had some friends, but it was difficult for them to understand some of the challenges I was experiencing.

One day, the school vice principal told me that the school would be hosting a ‘World’s Fair’ and asked me to put together a display to provide some information and background of the Sikh religion and culture. I worked with my family and some contacts I had within the Victoria multicultural community and put together a display and presentation about my cultural background, including why some Sikhs wear turbans, to help educate students and the school community. We offered samples of Punjabi food which not many people had tried before—I’m a firm believer that food is a great way to open a conversation. I even had one of my relatives write peoples’ names in Punjabi on ribbons that they could wear.

The change in how students and teachers interacted with me was night and day. The teasing literally stopped, and people seemed to accept and respect our differences. Life got a little bit easier after that and the rest of my school life was quite a breeze. And as for those students who teased me, they became good school friends of mine in my senior high school days.

Going through this experience helped shape me into the person I am today and why I feel building strong relationships begins with knowledge and understanding. And some food doesn’t hurt either.

If you’re interested in following in Rashpal’s footsteps by getting involved with CPRS Vancouver, or if you are interested in our accreditation program online, visit our Director's page to learn more.