Communications Runs in the Family

Amy Hennessy and Alex GraceIn celebration of Family Day this month, we chatted with mother-daughter duo Amy and Alex about their passion for communications.

How does it feel to see your daughter following in your PR footsteps?

Amy: Having Alex pursue the same field is really special. I feel like it’s something extra that we share. My own mother never understood what I do for a living, and somehow that makes me especially appreciate that I absolutely understand the field that Alex has chosen. I’ve had a very enjoyable, rewarding career and with her skills, I’m sure she will too. I hope that one day we can work on a project together.

Although it’s a bit funny that she ended up in the same line of work as I have as she seemed to have a love/hate relationship with my work over the years. She has accompanied me to many events, worked a lot of booths and even photographed my events. During her teenage years she assured me she did NOT EVER want to do what I did for a living. Ha! Payback!

Did your mom’s career influence your decision in getting into PR?

Alex: It definitely did, however I think subconsciously at first. My mother showed me what it was like to have a career that you truly love and excel at. She’s always been a force to be reckoned with in work and in her day-to-day life. My mother worked so hard when I was growing up and has been one of my biggest career inspirations as a woman in business. I’m always trying to be more like her in that sense.

We have a lot of common interests and strategic communications and marketing is just one of them. I think in a way I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do as a career, it’s just been about finding the perfect blend of traditional communications with a more contemporary creative outlook.

What kind of advice have you given her over the years as you worked toward this profession?

Amy: We all spend a lot of our waking hours working, and it’s much more enjoyable when you love what you do. I’ve always encouraged Alex to take that into consideration. I also believe in looking at a company first. Do you believe in the company and the work they do? If yes, it’s likely to be a better fit. When you love what you do and where you work, you will do well, and you can often create your own position.

Another thing I really believe in is the power of relationships -- it’s important to connect with others in the industry -- those you are working for, working with, people you may want to work with one day, the list goes on. It’s important to be genuine, trustworthy and honest. I don’t know if Alex listened to that advice, but she is all those things and has become a terrific networker.

Family dinners: any arguments over the use of serial commas or communications strategies?

Amy: Alex and I have fun discussing communications strategies. There is so much to talk about! Communication is such a part of everyday life. We see it on TV, in printed media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, on the radio – everywhere. I find it interesting to learn what she thinks about certain strategies. We don’t always agree on what is successful, but we do always have entertaining conversations.

Any perks to having the same profession as your daughter?

Amy: A really great perk of both working in the industry is those coveted VIP tickets. I’ve shared more than a few with Alex and she has been kind enough to return the favour. And I have to say, it is fantastic to tag along with Alex at events she is running or doing PR for – I love hearing how impressed people are with her, and seeing her at work.

What would be the best advice your mother has given you that made a difference in your career?

Alex: My mother has given me endless career advice over the years. I’m always asking her opinion on things, whether it’s reviewing something I’ve written for a project or running a new communications strategy by her. She’s given me a lot of great advice on trying to break into the industry, and definitely connected me with a lot of amazing people.

What it’s like having career in Communications running in the family?

Alex: It’s definitely been interesting at networking events. My mom and I look very similar. She has a lot of contacts in the industry, and we’ve both been involved with CPRS, so I’ve definitely had people give me a double take.

~ Amy Hennessy Partner, Cowen Point Consulting

Amy has served in several boards, including CPRS, and is currently consulting with the Empower Me program – an energy conservation and education program designed for and delivered by members of multilingual, multicultural communities. Her experience includes a long career with Fortis BC as Community & Aboriginal Relations Manager, a stint as Regional Manager for the Master Builders’ Association of Western Australia, and years of advertising agency work in San Francisco.

~ Alex Grace

Alex is working in Western Canadian sales and social media marketing for Dakota Group. After attending Blanche Macdonald Centre for Fashion Marketing, she has explored many different parts of the communications and marketing world from traditional public relations to more creative venues like fashion show production and styling. Her professional background now includes event planning, brand management, fashion distribution and wholesale, social media management and public relations.

About the Author

Paula Schütt has a bachelor's degree in Public Relations from UNIVALI and a marketing certificate from Arbutus College. She has over 3 years experience working both in agency and in-house settings for companies in the fitness, logistics and cosmetics industries. Linkedin: @paulaschutt