Name: Roxanne St-Pierre
Job title: Senior Communications Manager
Company you work for: TELUS
Career background: I have over 10 years of experience in communications/media relations, having worked for major events in Canada such as Quebec City Winter Carnival, Quebec City Summer Festival, Quebec City 400th Anniversary and the 2010 Olympics.
In Eastern Canada, and especially in Quebec City and Montreal, there is a unique and predominant event culture. The festival season is hugely popular, attracts visitors from around the world, and is both an intense as well as exciting environment to work in. Every year, events like the Winter Carnival or the Summer Festival draw several hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city!
Career aspirations: I am at a stage of my career where after 10 years of contract work, I really want to grow with an organization and I have found a fantastic team in TELUS. I work on CEO driven initiatives and also support the Community Investment team. I am extremely passionate about the philanthropic philosophy at TELUS: “We give where we live.”
Greatest career challenge: If forced to choose one it would be my work on the organizing committee of Quebec City’s 400th Anniversary in 2008. I was responsible for international media relations. Quebec City is the oldest permanent French settlement in Canada and was the entryway for immigration.
The 400th anniversary was not just a milestone event for Quebec City, but it was also meaningful in the history of the province and the nation. All three levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal, contributed significant funds to the event. Two years before the celebrations began, the citizens of Quebec City were skeptical, critical and even cynical about the committee and the work that was being done to prepare for the biggest event in Canada prior to the 2010 Olympics.
Working for an event is challenging because you have so many constraints in terms of what you can and cannot announce ahead of time, and people are eager to know who will be part of the celebrations. I felt it was a constant battle between the media and the organizers trying to answer the questions while sticking to the comms plan.
Furthermore, the media landscape is totally different in Quebec. There are several talk radio stations that reign over Quebec City airwaves. Insistent reporters and popular radio hosts generate a large public following. It was hard on the team to always be on the front cover of the dailies or constantly be the topic on the radio. However, we pulled it off and the celebrations were more than successful!
We won several awards, including one for our public relations strategy. Thanks to partners like Quebec City Tourism and Tourism Quebec, we tracked more than 1,000 articles published on the 400th anniversary celebrations outside the province of Quebec. I am proud of the work we did to convince national and international media to talk about the celebrations. Cirque du Soleil, Celine Dion, and Paul McCartney were part of the 300 events that took place throughout 2008. The city got a major facelift – physically and culturally – and four years later people still talk about the festivities!
Greatest career success: Moving to Vancouver, working for the 2010 Olympics and then deciding to stay here after my contract. It was a huge dream of mine to work for the Olympics. Many people perceive it to be the biggest sporting event in our history, and I really wanted to be part of the team. I was thrilled when I learned I was going to be on the Torch Relay team and would spend 106 days on the road, travelling from coast to coast.
When I made the decision to stay in Vancouver after the Olympics, I knew it was not going to be easy. The communications field is challenging when your first language is not English, yet the main work tool are words! The English dictionary is my new best friend!
Staying here also meant I had to start from scratch. I had been working really hard to build a great network in Quebec City and had to start all over again here. Three years later, I am proud of the network I have created and the connections I have made and keep making today.
Biggest career mistake or regret: Every mistake offers a learning opportunity, so I can’t think of a mistake or a regret.
Favourite PR/communications campaign: Every two years, I look forward to the different campaigns highlighting our athletes before the Olympics and Paralympics. I have to say that I have enjoyed the last two campaigns prepared by the Canadian Olympic Committee.
PR role model: So many to choose from! I will always be grateful to Annick Marchand, the Communications Director at the Quebec City Winter Carnival. She hired me and put her trust in me when I was 21 years old and let me manage media relations for the biggest winter carnival in the world. She was tough on me, but I learned tremendously from her.
Best career advice: One of my bosses would always say that the best thing to do was to listen, ask for people’s opinion, evaluate, make a decision and act on it. I try to follow these simple steps in everything I do.
Favourite journalist to pitch to: In Vancouver, I enjoy working with Linda Aylesworth from Global TV. She asks relevant questions and reports in all fairness and always presents both sides of the story. In Quebec City, Francois Bourque from the daily Le Soleil: he is as clever as a fox, and a brilliant columnist.
Favourite website: There are so many great websites! I need to start my day by reading the news! I always read cyberpresse.ca to stay abreast of things happening back East. I also like the Globe and Mail, and CBC’s websites.
Favourite social media site: I have to say Twitter. The social network has been really good to me: I have met great PR professionals, with some becoming friends. I also made valuable connections. Whenever I need an answer to a question or need a suggestion or recommendation, I turn to Twitter. I have a great network of people!
Fun fact about you: I always have a scarf with me; even in July, it’s tucked in my purse just in case! I have lost count of the scarves I have, but for some reasons, always find a way to buy a new one!