Profile: Lorraine Pitt, VP of Public Affairs, CGA-Canada

Lorraine PittWhat is a typical day like in your job? How many emails do you answer in a day?

There is no typical day in my job – that’s what makes working in my position so exciting and challenging. The day varies with a number of commitments in terms of meetings, decisions, emails, planning and so on. I normally receive over 100 emails a day, depending on what is going on for that week.

I manage the communications, design, multimedia and linguistics (translation) team as well as overseeing production of the national CGA magazine. There is never a dull moment!

What is the most successful or high-profile campaign that you’ve worked on? What do you believe are the critical elements needed to build a successful PR campaign?

Several stand out in my mind - I spent seven years as Head of Business and Technology PR at VISA Europe. As a top sponsor for the Olympic Games, we ran an athlete sponsorship campaign called TEAM VISA. I worked on the PR campaign on site in Beijing and Turin. I also worked on the launch of a number of financial technology PR firsts - the launch of mobile payments and a new cutting-edge technology for a PIN pad incorporated in payment cards for online security.

All of these campaigns involved similar elements that I believe are critical to building any successful PR campaign – cutting-edge products or ideas, creativity, passion and a dash of common sense too.

What emerging PR trends do you think practitioners should be aware of? 

One trend that I see emerging more and more is the rise of infographics to communicate complex messages in a visual way. They can certainly transform statistical information or data to help a story unfold.Of course, social media continues to evolve and it will be interesting to see how this will morph over the next few years. Businesses need to identify areas in social media they want to participate in. And it’s not about what’s most popular - it’s about what is right for your business. Hence the growing number of social media specialists, certainly a new phenomenon in recent years. 

What are your go-to websites for PR news? 

Social media – specifically LinkedIn groups and PR organizations / persons I follow. To name a few - PR Daily (Ragan), PR Week, Mashable and CPRS of course!

Professional / business app(s) you can’t live without:

  • My social media apps - LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
  • My news apps - CBC, Reuters, Finextra
  • My connection apps - Skype
  • My financial apps - Need an Accountant, national app recently launched by CGA-Canada to find an accountant near you – everyone needs one, especially during tax time

How do you stay current in your industry?

  • Keeping up on social media, specifically Twitterand relevant blogs
  • Networking and being active on social networks
  • Top lists on trends and developments, what’s going viral and widely circulated in terms of PR campaigns/new products

How did you come to work in PR?

My first job was in advertising for the Japanese newspaper, Nikkei, and through a chance meeting with a colleague, she encouraged me to go into public relations. I took a course in communications and then began to pursue various PR jobs, initially in the technology and telecoms industries.  

What is your education? Did you pursue specialized PR training?

Following a degree from University of Strathclyde in Scotland, I did a diploma in communications studies while I was working. This covered all aspects of PR, advertising and marketing. Having studied French, it is a great asset to have in a bilingual organization such as CGA-Canada.

Did your education prepare you for your job? 

Yes, albeit indirectly. Education is important, but so is gaining work experience. That helped me - having the experience in PR whilst working to complete my diploma was critical. Experience for me is part of the education process - you learn on the job.

How important has writing been to your career? 

Written communications is becoming more informal and conversational. It is important to understand writing styles and what to use for different mediums -whether it’s getting the message across in 140 characters on Twitter or writing a corporate speech.

What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR? To someone midway through their career?

My advice is for communicators at any level in their career:

1. Network, network, network. Don’t forget the power of sharing ideas, meeting new people and face to face connections. In our world of online exchange, one can easily forget face to face communications and I believe every PR practitioner should not lose sight of networking with peers. The information exchange at that level is as important as exchanging ideas online.

2. Understand and experience all areas of PR. Expand your horizons - even though you are working in one area of communications, make sure you gain experience in others. You never know when you will be called upon to step up to the plate.

3. Seek new opportunities. Just because you’re hired for one job doesn’t mean you can’t explore opportunities outside your job description. The opportunities are endless and you should volunteer within your organization to work on projects of interest to experience a variety of new challenges throughout your career. It will only strengthen your knowledge and experience.

Where do you see PR going in the next 10 years?

The world of social media will continue to evolve and impact how PR develops into the future. That will be interesting to watch and look back at in 10 years. Also, the media landscape is ever-changing. If you look around online there are all sorts of influencers within influencer groups springing up, making it a challenge for communicators to stay on top of to control and maintain their messaging.

Anything else you’d like to share?

As a relative newcomer to Canada, having emigrated from the UK in 2010, the first thing I noticed was that social media was more widespread and advanced amongst businesses in Canada. This ranged from TV advertising to other forms of communication. It was particularly noteworthy.

Lorraine Pitt is Vice President, Public Affairs for Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada).